Project Management


last edited by: Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP, CSM on Apr 5, 2018 10:17 AM login/register to edit this page

1 Applications
2 Procedures
3 Instructions

The most widely used facilitation technique. The most effective workshop facilitator asks questions to:

  • collect facts and gather information from the participants to build or analyze enterprise engineering project deliverables
  • suggest ideas and alternatives to defining a new way to do business, to meet future vision requirements, and/or to achieve objectives and goals
  • test ideas for relevance to vision, problems, causes, solutions development, idea qualification, and/or deliverables
  • encourage new ideas to solve existing business problems
  • isolate objections to solutions for proper consensus building
  • confirm commitment
  • provide and/or solicit feedback for effective meeting and behavior management (see Facilitation, Workshops, Decision Making, Root Cause Analysis, Solutions Development, and Idea Qualification)
There are six basic questioning techniques: tie-downs, alternative advances, boomerangs, involvements, leadings, and discoveries. A tie-down is a question that seeks a response to get commitment, reach agreement, stimulate thinking, or follow up on an issue. In addition to a "standard" tie-down, tie-downs can be inverted (using negatives such as "...hasn't..." instead of "...has..."), to focus on making the participant internalize the importance of the question, and/or used as a "tag-along" to another question.

Alternative advances are questions that suggest a forced choice between two alternatives, rather than leaving an open-ended question (e.g., "Can we meet on Tuesday at 10:00 or Friday at noon?" vs. "When can we meet?"). Boomerang questions are those that are redirected back to the participant to lead to commitment or to direct behavior. Involvement questions are constructed in a positive case to address feelings or other intangibles to confirm facts. The intent is to have the recipient of the question address how a given decision or situation would affect him or her.

Discovery questions usually are asked in the form of a statement to uncover additional information (e.g., "John, if you have any additional questions regarding this activity work flow, I'll be glad to answer them," and wait for a response). Alternatively, open-ended questions could be used. Leading questions are sometimes used to confirm your own ideas without actually stating what those ideas are. (Use sparingly!)


  • To help facilitate and manage workshops or meetings.
  • To aid in the information gathering and analysis process.
  • To aid in creative thinking during brainstorming or problem solving.


  1. During workshop preparation, identify all possible uses of questions.
  2. Select appropriate questioning tools depending where you are in the creative problem solving process.
  3. Generate a list of possible questions to include in each workshop module.
  4. Apply the tool, as required.
  5. During a workshop, adjust your technique appropriately to maximize the tool.
  6. Note any important lessons learned.


In preparing for a workshop, identify all possible modules and activities where questioning techniques can be applied (see Workshops). This will depend on the type of workshop being conducted and the desired results. Choose an appropriate technique for each activity. Generate a list of candidate questions.

During the workshop, apply the tool as required, adjusting the question and the way in which it was used. Make any relevant mental notes to improve the preparation and selection of questions and techniques. For example, during a "visioning" workshop, questions should be geared towards collected implicit vision information, and the facilitator should question the participants in terms of how things are in today's environment, how things may be changing, and the elements of a desired future state for the enterprise. Use lateral thinking or other creative thinking techniques, in conjunction with questioning, to improve the flow of the workshop (see Lateral Thinking).

last edited by: Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP, CSM on Apr 5, 2018 10:17 AM login/register to edit this page

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"He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot."

- Groucho Marx