The Magic Question

magic question agile metricsI am sometimes contracted to help my clients evaluate the quality or fitness of a vendor or tool. I am expected to ask several intelligent questions and to quickly gain profound insights.

The truth is, I usually need to ask only one question.

This is a question I have honed over a few decades of building businesses and delivering systems. It is a simple question which helps me cut to the heart of most issues.

I can tell you the question, but first I have to warn you… it is an essay question, I am not interested in True/False answers. I am interested in the vendor demonstrating their depth of ability to answer the question. I am interested if their answer is clear and convincing. So I ask a question which a true master could spend hours answering. This is why I only need one question.

The question?

“How do you know what you do is good?”

If you are selling me a software tool, “How do you know it is good?”

If you are selling me a service, “How do you know it is good?”

Some answer this question quickly, “It is a best-selling product.” Or, “Lots of people buy it.” Or, “It doesn’t crash.” Interesting answers, but not compelling.

Others are a bit slower in answering. One gentleman spent the better part of an hour exploring the idea of quality and good, and enumerating a series of practices they employ to ensure their results are good. His answer was compelling.

I can’t tell you the answer. But I can tell you the secret in evaluating answers is to listen, and not to talk. If you can answer the question well yourself for the goods and services that you provide, you will know how best to evaluate it, so feel free to use The Magic Question – on members of your staff too. You will be delighted, surprised, and appalled by the answers you hear.
By Tom (Thomas) Meloche –

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