For a KTC to be truly successful, key stakeholders must be engaged throughout the process. Integral to the success of any KTC, is the preparation and set-up. During the design phase, the main focus is to create a question that is salient, enticing and exciting for the people who will gather around the table. When everyone arrives on the day of the KTC, they must be there to discuss something that holds true meaning and value for them and their tribe. They must have had time to prepare so that they feel confident in participating.

Whether the moderator (and/or Core Team) is conducting the initial fact-find, team/sponsor coaching, panel briefings, or stakeholder interviews, the process and foundational principles are similar. Especially if your core team is assisting in conducting steps in the KTC process, it is important to coach them on their role and positioning. Take time to review the different types of questions and coach them on remaining neutral and objective in the interviews. If the interviewees feel that they are being lead or manipulated, the feeling will quickly be transmitted to the rest of the organization.


A secondary, but no less important goal is to build awareness and energy around attendance of a KTC. As all Organisational Change Management professionals know; the easiest way to build momentum is to engage and include your target audience. A KTC intervention is no different. The more interviews conducted, the more people will be prepared to participate, and the more your target audiences will be engaged and up-front during the Conversation. As well as ultimately leading to successful Conversations, it also sets a tone for interaction that ripples through the organisation causing a shift in behaviour.

Another important element of preparing for mission critical conversations is ensuring that everyone understands the process and the ground-rules. At almost every interview or preparation meeting, one of the first things the moderator does is repeat snippets of the script to bring alive the Conversation process and begin to embed the ground-rules. This preparation is essential to a well-executed KTC as following the script provides congruency on the day of the intervention.
An interview/briefing typically lasts from 20 to 45 minutes depending upon the nature of the question and the participant’s level of knowledge about KTCs.

NB1: Before you begin the first interview, consider your report and the elements you need to include. Use the expected result to inform the design of your interview/briefing. Remember to take notes, you will need them for your report.

NB2: It is of tantamount importance that the moderator does not ‘interrogate’ the participant. The interview/briefing sets the tone for all KTC work.

Initial Fact-finding & Briefings

Briefings are used to prepare the sponsor, core team, key stakeholders and panellists to support the KTC. A big part of the design work for a KTC is about involving the right people and getting the right focus. By the time you begin most briefings, the moderator (with the sponsor and/or core team members) will already have confirmed a topic, developed an initial question, and identified key stakeholders. But gathering the correct people around the table is only one aspect of the conversation. Each stage of design can be used to ensure effective on-boarding for the process. A key element of the moderator’s involvement is to make sure that inclusion and follow-through are always top of mind at every stage of the process.

Initial interviews are used to flesh out the topics, to define more clearly the options for the KTC event, and to test the draft question and bring it to life. They are also used to garner support and generate excitement for the upcoming KTC. The main focus is to create a question that is salient, enticing and exciting for the people who will gather for the KTC. Although this element is considered an interview, it is conducted like a conversation.

It is very important that the moderator &/or core team take a relaxed approach; providing the information/feedback that the participant needs to be comfortable. Refine the initial question through probing and being curious about the person’s reaction to the draft/initial question. Refine the question by reading the participant and picking up on subtle reactions and signals that unpack their attachment to the question. With the correct approach, (being curious and inclusive), you can create opportunities to ensure the stakeholders find great value in the whole KTC process

Key Stakeholder Interviews

KTCs assist in creating innovative solutions or building deep understanding of situation and/ or relationships. Ensuring that everyone understands the KTC process, and its ground-rules, is mission critical. The interview is used to educate participants and inspire confidence and energy around the whole KTC methodology. Ideally, participants will also compare notes with colleagues about their interview experience. At almost every interview or preparation meeting, the Moderator reviews the process and talks a bit about the ground-rules by quoting snippets of the Script. This preparation is essential to a well-executed KTC and provides congruence throughout the process. Once the target audience for the KTC is identified the moderator (or core team) sets up interviews with key stakeholders to explore:

  1. Why they care about the topic (and related information)?
  2. What they know about the topic?
  3. What they want to know about the topic?
  4. What opportunities are related to this space?
  5. What are the threats?
  6. What are their hopes and fears?


KTCs are meant to bring focus to, resolve issues or roadblocks, unstick barriers, as well as to determine integration points for the topic at hand. Leaving key stakeholders and/or influencers with a clear message that a KTC, any KTC, is fully integrated with their day2day business can be a very powerful motivator for attendance.

Frequently, information and insight generated at the interviews and briefings can be as valuable to senior leaders and functional specialists throughout the organization as the information generated at the KTC itself. The more broadly this information can be used, the more integration will be needed, so it is important that the moderator focuses immediately on determining integration points, impacted staff or internal specialist (that needs to be at the table), etc. Use the following questions as a guide to learn more about the topic:

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • What do we know already about the implications for the company from the key topics?
  • Which topics or sub-topics are expected to generate the most interest?
  • Which topics or sub-topics are expected to generate the most controversy?

The answers to these powerful questions tie back to the conversation about the integration between the KTC and the project that weaves the conversation into business as usual. You start with as good an understanding as you can get of the overall situation. Central to this is a statement from the client leaders about the purpose and goal of the conversation.

Once the interviews take place, the perspectives from both the briefings and interviews are reviewed. The critical task is to look for the overlap, to ascertain the zones that speak to the sponsor’s purpose and goals while being respectful of the audience and zeroing in on their priorities. The where all this overlaps is where the topic is built.

For a small-scale project these briefings and interviews can be done fairly quickly. For a massive change project, they take weeks and happen in tandem with other preparation activities. When the stakes are high, it is critical to find the precisely the right place to focus. That is the path to the beautiful question.

Example Interview Agenda

5 minutes

Introduction: Welcome & Thanks

Explain the goal of the KTC

The purpose of this interview is to explain the KTC methodology and to . Remember to be as transparent as possible about the intent of the question and as open to and curious throughout the interview about any feedback they are willing to give. Consultant or moderator gives a 1-minute background for themselves. Tell them a bit about the KTC (use the infographic provided to build confidence). Assure them that their feedback and comments will be held anonymously in one summary report to the sponsor

Start education process using the KTC script:

So today, we are going to talk about the kitchen table conversation process and the initial question: … and when I say a kitchen table conversation, what I mean is your kitchen table… or wherever it happens to be that you have your best conversations – your most fruitful, memorable, enjoyable, most rambunctious & rewarding conversations. Maybe it is not at your kitchen, maybe it is at a family gathering or celebration; maybe it’s in the park with the kids or a café with friends. … And I certainly hope that at your kitchen table people are interrupting and disagreeing with each other. Because how can we have a kitchen table conversation without interruption and disagreement?

10-15 minutes

Question Review

Read / repeat the initial question to the participant(s) and ask a small question related to the larger topic. Put a copy of the question in front of the participant(s) and allow the participant to speak as much as possible. Probe when necessary. Do not feel that you must use the list of questions developed. Use it sparingly if/as needed

5 minutes

Next Steps

Summarize 1 or 2 important points. Ask for confirmation of understanding / correctness. Remind participant that they can be in touch if they think of other comments or feedback. Confirm that they can talk to others about their interview experience. Tell them how much you are looking forward to seeing them at the table. Answer any final questions.

10 minutes

Review notes

Highlight important / interesting feedback that you may want to explore with other interview participants. Compare feedback to report requirements. Debrief the interview: Stop / Start / Continue and set up for next interview.