Monday, May 10, 2010

Stop selling Slurpees and Lead with questions

Solutions. That is what IT Staff is good at. We see a problem or opportunity and we come up with solutions.  We have a fantastic ability to know and quickly identify possible tools or even process changes to make impact. We are quick to offer help and jump to the easy fixes.
Happy 7-11 Day!
But I would argue that this solution pushing turns us into a convenience store. We are only asked about things when a solution is needed.  Why do we need to be part of the planning when all we do is provide the solution?  People would rather finish their planning, identify what the problem or need is, then step up to the Slurpee counter and order the quick fix.

By acting under the orders of "the customer is always right" and "Service with a smile", are we really providing the best services to our organization?

Most of the Nonprofit Tech Staff that I know have much deeper skills than providing icee beverages when people need a quick fix.  We have a set of skills that complements the rest of organization very well but I dont see it used enough.  We are very analytical, process oriented, mission driven and creative with a unique perspective, plus the knowledge of tools and methods that many others dont know.  So why do we squander it?

Here is my proposal.  When a request comes in, lead with a "Yes but I have some questions..." Spend some time asking questions about what they are working on, what is the end goal, what would success look like.  And dont ask these questions in a formal document or a survey, try talking to your colleagues.

Question Mark and ArrowOr better yet, here is my ideal request.  Dont wait for people to come to you looking for solutions. Target one group of staff that is working on a great program within your organization.  Work within your IT team to come up with a set of questions about that program that would help you understand it better. Come up with questions about what the planned impact is or what long term success would look like.  Then invite a couple of those staff to your IT Staff meeting and have a conversation with them about it.  Dont even talk about tools or solutions. Just ask questions to better understand the program.  Showing interest in their program and asking questions will develop a relationship that will benefit everything you do with them.

In general, I think we all need to start leading with questions, not answers.  Try to listen and not jump to the solution.

1 comment:

Mark Gillingham said...

Steve nails this idea. Slurpee is a great metaphor for my usual activity as a responsive IT guy. I vow to ask more questions starting now!