Are you asking the right questions?

A structured way to make sure you got all the info you need

Author: Eric Torkia/Sunday, October 28, 2018/Categories: Analytics Articles

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Are you asking the right questions?

Figuring out where to start begins with a question...

Whether you are a businessman or a practicing professionals such as an attorney, a doctor or a consultant, the ability to ask the right questions is imperative along with the ability to capture the information that is important when an answer is provided. Sometimes knowing where to start is the toughest aspect of solving a problem. Usually a sound approach is breaking out complex problems into smaller more manageable components; as the old adage goes “Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”

One of the best way to frame a problem is with the 5W's: who, what, why, where, when. When you ask these questions, you are able to explore different dimensions of the problem. They all address different aspects that you need to cover to size up a problem and start figuring out what to do. This applies everywhere e.g. finance, project management, IT (Infrastructure, Analytics, Big Data, Strategy), public administration, manufacturing, etc.

The other interesting dimension to these questions is whether you are pulling or pushing information. What I mean.... are you using these questions to frame an answer to give a clear picture to your audience or you are using this very same framework to ask better questions to get at the root of what people expect of you?

Asking the right questions starts with...

Analyst Solution Design Questions with 5Ws

Getting your audience on-board (Framing Answers with 5Ws)


This question obviously covers the subject of your analysis. The people impacted, benefiting or being hurt by your project.

  • Who does it?
  • Who is doing it?
  • Who should be doing it?

Who is the focus of your communication or receiving the information? Do they have particular sensibilities that you need to be aware of (political, religious, etc.)


  • What are we building / doing?
  • What is involved?
  • What resources do I need?
  • What should be done? What else can be done.
  • This is WHAT we are doing
  • What will change?
  • What you need to learn?
  • What you need to know?


  • Why do I care?
  • Why is this important?
  • Why should I do this and not that?
  • Why do it there?
  • Why do it then?
  • WIFM: What’s in it for me
  • How people benefit around you
  • Cost / Time / Quality improvement to stakeholders


  • Are market conditions dictating when to act?
  • When will we have all to resources to execute?
  • When to execute?
  • When should we execute?
  • Explain the best timing and how that makes a difference financially or operationally
  • Key Milestones and what we will have accomplished


  • Where to do it?
  • Where is it done / processed?
  • Where else can it be done?
  • Locations for convenience
  • Online vs. Physical World.
  • Points of interaction and data generation

Try these simple questions and remember that you can contribute even more and have a greater impact, if your audience feels you were in-synch when you developed your analysis and you present the outcomes in ways they can relate and appreciate.

5 rules to for getting more out of your questions:

  1. Be sincerely interested in the answer. Nothing makes you look more like the proverbial "asshole" than asking questions without listnening to the answers.
  2. Ask follow-up questions. If you hit a nerve, try to understand why someone is objecting. They may have valid reasons or considerations. At the very least, this is an occasion to better understand their point of view.
  3. Be the student! This means shut up. Back in the day a sales manager once said to me "God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them in the same proportion."
  4. Look em' in the eyes! Sounds obvious but I dare you to try this... When you ask a question, shut up and look at them in the eyes while they answer. They will keep talking until you break eye contact! Try it, its freaky.
  5. Be mindful of your body language and posture. If you have ADHD and you can't help but move around when you talk, then be upfront. Otherwise, in addition to eye contact, try to be cognizant of your facial expressions, open or closed arms, fidgeting and slouching.

Try this method out and let me know if you get the same results I do.

- Wildman, out.


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