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How to start an ITSM Maturity Assessment Interview

This article describes how to start an ITSM Assessment interview. It includes pointers on what to say to the interviewee and the importance of personality and mood.

Maturity assessment is more than just a series of interviews, of course, and you can read about the wider context in the Visual Guide to ITSM Maturity Assessment.

In this series on interviewing we’ll cover:

Let’s get into it!

The ITSM Assessment Interview: Opening Impressions

It's important to gauge the mood of the interviewee as soon as possible. In general, an ITSM assessment interview will go more smoothly when there is some rapport between the two (and sometimes three) parties.

When we talk about 'mood' here, we're referring mainly to the interviewee's attitude to the interview and to the assessment process in general. Most people will be interested by the process and glad to help, but occasionally you'll meet someone who feels unsure at best, or threatened at worst. Establishing rapport is especially important in those circumstances and we'll come to how to do that in a moment.

One of the reasons we're interested in the mood or attitude of the interviewee (besides the fact that we want it to be a pleasant experience for them) is that strong attitudes may introduce bias. Even with a positive attitude towards the assessment, some people will tend to have a 'glass half full' or half-empty bias to their answers. It's a good idea to corroborate and find supporting evidence whenever you feel that some bias has entered into the responses you're getting.

Opening Remarks: establishing rapport

Establishing rapport with an interviewee is 80% art, and 20% science. It isn't possible to supply absolute rules (although there are many books on the subject of rapport) because there are so many different kinds of people and circumstances.

For that reason, although I am going to state clearly what I think you MUST say, I think the order in which you say these things should be allowed to emerge semi-naturally from the conversation. 'Semi-naturally' because it is your responsibility as the interviewer to steer the opening conversation and the rest of the interview. Time is usually short, so you only have a few minutes to set the scene and get the ITSM assessment interview off to a good start.

So, before you start the interview proper, here are the areas you MUST cover, with a suggested order which may vary slightly with the circumstances.

You MUST cover these 7 areas

1. Welcome the interviewee into the room. Briefly introduce yourself ( if you're an external assessor, this is NOT a chance to advertise yourself or your company!)

2. Confirm that you're speaking to the right person about the right subject (for example the Change Management process).

3. Ask if the interviewee was briefed by their manager (they should have been!). If they were not, brief them now. For example, you could explain that a senior manager has asked you to look at the change management process to see what's working well and what isn't so that we can make some improvements, and that the interviewee's name was put forward as someone with a good understanding of the subject.

4. Ask for brief details of the interviewee's role, and how long they've been in that role. This will help you to put into context the answers you receive. This is really important. For example, a lack of understanding or knowledge from a process owner or process manager indicates a different kind of underlying issue than lack of understanding from someone with a more limited role within the process.

5. Explain that the interviewee is anonymous for the purposes of the assessment process. In other words, no remarks made during the interview will ever be directly attributed to the interviewee. It's all 'in confidence'. You have to mean this, and you have to stick to it. To digress slightly, this is one of the reasons why you should always interview at least two people on any single subject. If only one person is interviewed, it will be clear who the source of comments is.

6. Equally, if the assessment process was designed so that interviewees are NOT anonymous (not always something I'd recommend), then make that clear.

7. Finally, explain how the ITSM assessment interview will proceed. Give an example of a question or statement and the kind of response you're looking for. For example, you could explain that you are looking for a yes / no answer, or a rating from 1-5 - or whatever method you are using. When I use my preferred 1-5 rating system (Likert scale) I print a brief explanation of each rating and place it in front of the interviewee so that they can consider where they are on the scale. They will quickly get used to that and won't need to refer to the written explanation after the first few questions.

Zeno: Powerful process improvement made simple


We are really doing just a few simple things to get the interview off on the right foot:

- gauge the mood and potential bias of the interviewee

- establish rapport

- give the interviewee the information they need

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments or contact me via LinkedIn.

If you need assessment software, you might want to see what Zeno has to offer.

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About the Author Dan McCarthy

Dan is the co-founder of Zeno. He likes finding new ways to improve processes and working life in general.

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