Before you can fix a problem, you need to know what it is. Get it right, and you’re on your way. Get it wrong and you face the consequences, and they can be costly. These questions help identify a problem with precision, on several levels, separating the symptoms from the disease. Start broad, zero in. Describe, compare, and quantify. Listen for detail and patterns.

Open-Ended Problem Questions:

What’s going on here?

What’s the matter?

The first step is to ask what’s wrong. Using broad, open-ended questions, ask for a description of the problem—what it looks, sounds and feels like. Ask where it manifests itself, when, and in what ways. Ask about what seems to make the problem better or worse. These are present-tense ...

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