In my 30+ year career I’ve worked as a writer, developer of training, and project manager. In each of these roles there have been many times when I had to interview experts in various fields and technical specialties (i.e., SMEs or Subject Matter Experts) to get their professional insights and help making our finished product more accurate or effective. Truth is, this has always been one of the favorite parts of my job, since these interviews give me the opportunity for continuous learning and growth.
One tool that I’ve found to be particularly valuable in these interviews is the “One Simple Thing…” question. The object of the game is to force the experts to dig deep into their experiences and use their hard-won wisdom to sort through all the possible answers they could provide, finally selecting the “one simple thing” that is the essence… the core… the pithy heart of the matter in question. This typically produces some powerful responses that reveal what inspires these experts, what they value, the origins of their passion about their field. At minimum, the answer to this question can focus and bring meaning to what the team builds. And sometimes the answers serve as themes to guide further questioning and shape the entire evolution of the project.
Recently, as part of my pursuit of PM Minimalism, I decided to post such a question to my PM colleagues. Here’s what I asked:
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