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Question Transformation 2 - Refocus

Questions Workshop Jun 5, 2022 (Jun 5, 2022) Loading...

Following on from Question Transformation 1 - Changing the Question Word

All these are for the purpose of getting information about the thing you're asking about. If you're asking a general question i.e. in a job interview, or in a forum with an expert who's not in your context, then you're asking for different purposes than as a tester. We'll not deal with those, here.

Changing the Pronoun

"you" is so... othering. Switch the pronoun.

How do we track requirements?

Indicates that this question is important to you because you both belong to the same group, and it's important to the group.

How do I track requirements?

When asked out loud of another person, switching 'you' for 'I' is generally a straightforward request for instruction or facts. Switching the pronoun indicates that this question is important to you because you are about to take (some of the) responsibility for doing the action, or perhaps lets you take the focus off the person you're asking.

When asked of oneself, it makes the question speculative, triggering the imagination and perhaps looking into the future.

How do they track requirements?

Invites reportage, which can include judgement and speculation.

Adding detail

Here, I've added detail by including a limted example.

Can you show me what changes to requirements have been recorded over the last two sprints, and what effects those changes have had?
Can you show me the tool you use to track requirements?

Note that these two questions have become requests.

Specific vs General

How do we currently track requirements, here?
How are requirements generally tracked?

Change a YesNo from contextual to personal

Change "Do you track requirements?" to "Do you know whether requirements are tracked here?" to

How were you tracking requirements back then?
How are we currently tracking requrirements?
How will we be tracking requirements when we get to that point?
How do you imagine we'll be tracking requirements?
How has the way we track requrirements changed?

Inviting imagination

What's your ideal way of tracking requirements?
How could we get better at tracking requirements?
Do we need to track requirements?

Making it personal

Questions can get a bit abstract – particularly with 'you' in English, where it isn't always clear whether the question is about "you" as in the individual, or "you" as in your organisation.

How do you personally track requirements?
How do you feel about tracking requirements?
How do you feel about the way you track requirements?

Compare the following transformations:

  • "do you track requirements" (may be personal, may be the team)  
  • "do you track requirements yourself" (personal responsibility)
  • "do you need to track requirements" (an imposed task)
  • "do you need to track requirements yourself" (about delegation)
  • "do you feel the need to track requirements yourself" (a self-imposed task that is not delegated)

Clarifying intent

I may not immediately reveal my intent, but knowing why I'm asking a question will help me with follow-on questions – and those are likely to swiftly reveal my intent. If I'm purposeless, that will come across just as clearly.

Things to avoid

Be conscious about imposing a model. Clean Language is a helpful (and inspiring) tool.

If asking about feelings, ask how someone feels. Asking whether something is liked / disliked is narrow – and if I want to be that narrow, I get more by being specific; is something helpful / unhelpful, easy/hard.

Avoid questions which ask someone to rank, if they've not already done so. You  might ask for unusual examples, if you 're looking for outliers, but perhpas not best / worst. People tend to remember and sleect "a recent" more easily than "most recent", "an excellent" more easily than "the best".

"What do you dislike most about tracking requirements" imposes a model, a judgement and asks for ranking. Prefer "How do you feel about tracking requirements",

What I do

Of these transformations, I typically :

  • Remove the interrogative to ask an open-ended question
Tell me about requirement tracking
  • Move to specifics
Tell me about how you currently track requirements on this project
  • Clarify intent of question for myself
Tell me about how you currently track requirements on this project (because I think that it's not working as well as it could do)

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