Consultancy Skills Toolkit


Critical Examination

Rudyard Kipling's The Serving Men

I keep six honest serving men,
They taught me all I know,
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How And Where And Who.


Critical Examination Technique as a tried and tested method of analysing an organisation or system.

It is the systematic analysis of information about a problem, procedure or activity by which it is subjected to exhaustive challenge, with regard to need, simplification, combination, sequence and alternatives. Its aim is to determine the valid reasons for each activity, and to draw up systematically a list of alternatives which can be developed into a new and improved method.

The Technique

In order to ensure that critical examination of all appropriate functions is carried out, a structured approach in applying the technique can be used. This requires the consultant to ask a series of specific questions of relevant activities, objectives and policies. The questions are as follows:

Clearly, you can follow each of the above with a secondary question - "Why?".  If all responses to the question ‘why?’ are satisfactory, this does not necessarily mean that the situation should remain unchanged. It simply means that some activity is necessary and that it should be carried out somehow, at some tine, in some place and by someone.

In adopting the structured approach to critical examination, further searching questions can then be posed:

Below is a Critical Examination sheet which sets out the questions for easy reference and analysis.

 What - the purpose
  • What is achieved?
  • Why is it Necessary?
  • What else Could be done?
  • What Should be done?
When - the sequence
  • When is it done?
  • Why then?
  • When else Could it be done?
  • When Should it be done?
How - the means
  • How is it done?
  • Why that way?
  • How else Could it be done?
  • How Should it be done?
Where - the place
  • Where is it done?
  • Why there?
  • Where else Could it be done?
  • Where Should it be done?
Who - the person
  • Who does it?
  • Why that person?
  • Who else Could do it?
  • Who Should do it?