I keep six honest serving-menand most of them probably assume that Kipling endorses this approach. But I think it is pretty clear from the context of the poem that "I" is not supposed to be Kipling himself but the Elephant's Child, an annoying creature, who goes around constantly asking What-Why-When-How-Where-Who questions. He gets obsessed by one such question (What does the Crocodile have for dinner?) and set off on a quest to find the answer, nearly gets killed in the process, and returns with a quite unexpected benefit: this is How The Elephant Got His Trunk. If the Elephant's Child actually learns anything valuable from the experience, this is largely thanks to the intervention of the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake who (apart from saving his life) asks grounded questions like "Try this" and "Don't you think" and "How do you feel".
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
If you read the whole of Kipling's poem (Wikisource: The Elephant's Child) the irony can hardly be missed.
So there are two alternative role models for the consultant here. Are you an Elephant's Child or a Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake?
Of course, not everyone sees this my way. In The One Conversational Tool That Will Make You Better At Absolutely Everything (Fast Company December 2012), Shane Snow is on the side of the Elephant's Child.
Questions that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why” have high probability of thoughtful responses, whereas those that begin with “would,” “should,” “is,” “are,” and “do you think” can limit your answers.And the Wikipedia article on 5Ws identifies some classical precursors.
My presentation (Slideshare): The Kipling-Zachman lens
Daily Telegraph (28 Oct 2010): Picture of the day
Updated 19 December 2012