Something went through both of my brain cells today. And to keep a long story short, it centers on your approach to the question – whatever the question might be at the moment. But, let’s confine the definition to work, where we spend a goodly portion of our life, and how we would like that portion of life to be as good as possible.
I was listening to a hotshot answer what I narcissistically thought was a great question when the light bulb lit. His answer was not only covering the technical aspects that I needed to hear that he knew, but he was (quite cleverly) also feeding in the business angle aspects to the answer formula. In essence, he was answering my follow-on questions of “what is the business reason for taking this action and does this action resolve the situation with the minimum staff adjustments in terms of time and skill set and did you cover the hidden costs as well as storage, cpu, ram, racks, et cetera.”
In short, he was doing really well answering my question. And I know he was the same in front of the customer. Everyone needs to have this guy on the team.
At any rate, the light bulb lit up on the concept of technical v consulting answers. Mr. Hotshot could have stuck with the pure techno-babble, with lots of numbers, specifications, descriptions of how to do it, and all of that fun stuff. Surely, there is great value in having someone know exactly how to do whatever it might be right off the top of his or her head. I wish I could do that sometimes. I usually revert to being able to point them right at some reference work. Works for me. And reserves my spare brain cell for other things.
Details are critical to our success. Mr. Hotshot was clearly in the right spot – he can bang out the details like no-one’s business. And he knows what he does not know. And he knows how to defer the question to an issue parking lot for follow-up. Perfect.
Mr. Hotshot could also have just gone the technical route and ignored the consulting aspects until asked. All the logistics questions and staff and culture type stuff could have waited. There is some tremendous value in knowing all of that stuff even if at first glance it does appear to out of scope for our project. After all, “how is lunch served around here?” is an important project scheduling point.
But more to the point, what about using those consulting skills to identify architectural detail about the environment, impact to the project (and affecting the defining business goals/requirements) and perhaps dredge up more business? Gees. That sounds awful salesy huh? How about the idea that the design might need to change in mid-project? There is a benefit to having your very own in-house consultant, eh?
We have two approaches to doing what we do. You can be deep technical. You can dive in deep. I know a guy that you can call at almost any hour and pose some bizarre Active Directory or Registry question. Just be prepared to scribble fast because there is no way you will remember the details the forthcoming answer will encompass – but it is going to answer your issue. He knows some serious technical depth stuff.
But you can go too deep and lose your audience. What we do must be tailored to the audience. If a business decision maker is in the room, then you better be including that person in your audience profile. The technical team can wait a bit while you fill in their boss with the business details stuff and make his staff look like they were all over it from the beginning.
In our work, I see a real-life need for a consultant who can get into the technical errata, be able to walk and talk at the same time, and discuss business to the extent of your understanding; all of that without getting into even minor prevarication or truth stretching.
And here is our intrepid Mr. Hotshot fieldling my question tree with answers that meld the technical with the consulting. “Choices made for these reasons which tie to this technical answer and so on to this business requirement.” Or “we discussed the need for expanded storage” and “I expressed my concern that the network might not support the technical solution.” I know he gave those same answers to the customer and guess who was in the room? The customer’s CIO. And Mr. Hotshot is giving me answers like that. The conclusion should be obvious.
We have more work coming from that customer. That makes your work life better.