Heartbreak Hotel – The Best Way to Deal with Rejection*

Rejection’s tough to take. More often than not, it’s painful, humiliating and disappointing. Sometimes even devastating. It can get really ugly, not just for you, but for all parties involved.

Now we’re all agreed on what rejection feels like, here’s how to best deal with it: Avoid rejection by improving your interviewing technique.

Rejection Can Be Avoidable

In the world of consultancy, failing to get a contract is a form of rejection. Likewise spending five years on a supa-dupa high profile project only to have it rejected two weeks before it goes live because we got the requirements wrong also merits an R for REJECT.

Just as you would spend some time preparing for a romantic night out with a significant other, be sure to gather the information you need to bring about a happy ending to your business engagements.

How the Nine Boxes Technique Can Help

The Nine Boxes is an interviewing technique from the Solution Selling® sales process.

It’s a structured approach for:

  1. Discovering the root causes of problems
  2. Identifying those affected by the problems
  3. Creating an agreed common vision of the solution between you and your customer.

Bonus: The information gathered feeds into user stories as demonstrated by Dave Nicolette.

During the information interview, we gather information about 3 aspects of the problems:

  • Details of the problems
  • Those impacted by the problems
  • What the world will be like when the solution is in place (outcome visioning)

For each aspect, we ask 3 types of questions (3×3=9):

Type 1: Open questions allow the interviewee to tell their story (aka Qualification):

  • ‘Tell me about…’
  • ‘What happens after that?’
  • ‘Why is that?’

Type 2: Control questions help fill in the facts of the story (aka Quantification):

  • ‘How much…?’
  • ‘How many…?’
  • ‘How often…?’
  • ‘When does that happen…?’

Type 3: Confirm questions verify the interviewer’s understanding of what the interviewee has said (aka Confirmation):

  • ‘If I’ve understood correctly… Is that correct?’
  • Only when the interviewee replies ‘Yes’ does the interviewer proceed by posing questions about the next aspect of the problem.

‘Sounds complicated – what do others think?’

I’ve co-presented The Nine Boxes session with Pascal at a number of conferences and participants come out amazed at how quickly and accurately the structured approach helps them elicit the root causes of problems. Most important of all, those who play the role of interviewee (the customer) always say what a refreshing change it is to talk to an interviewer who is a good listener and is capable of developing an accurate understanding of the problems.

The Nine Boxes Technique game was created by Pascal and can be downloaded from our Agile Coach site.

What You See Isn’t What You Get

‘But what if clarifying the problem leads us to discover it isn’t a problem after all?’ I hear the consultants among you ask, throwing your hands up in horror. ‘That’s great news – congratulations!’ I say. After all, it’s one of the best possible outcomes of using the Nine Boxes. Why? Because a customer who is genuinely committed to continuous improvement for their organisation would:

  1. Be impressed by your problem finding acumen and thank you heartily for helping to clarify the misunderstanding that has caused so much confusion and resulted in so much time wasted to date.
  2. Be impressed by your professional integrity for being open and honest instead of charging them for inventing a solution to a non-existent problem.
  3. Ask you to help identify areas where improvements can be made.

More Than Words

Build integrity into everything you do. Take the 5 Agile Values to the next level: build Trust and increase Transparency.

* Special thanks to Gino and Pascal for taking this entry’s feature picture

One Response to “Heartbreak Hotel – The Best Way to Deal with Rejection*”

  1. Thinking for a Change » XP Days Benelux 2008 - Program selection writes:

    [...] You’ll get to see the XP Days program soon. Watch this space. But first, we have to send more acceptance and, unfortunately, rejection messages. And rejection’s tough to take. [...]

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