Get Confirmation

One thing I often say to people I work with and to people that work for me, is that you either 100% know something or you need to confirm. We do a lot of development work.  Over the years I have learned that whether you are implementing a packaged software solution or developing a custom solution, the order you need to think is People > Process > Technology. Technology shouldn’t be used to define your process or attempt to hide the lack of one. And no matter how good your process is, if people don’t follow it then it doesn’t matter.

When talking to a client about laying out a project I like to discuss the process with the people that actually do the work.

Years ago, I worked for IBM and I was working with the Department of Defense in various capacities depending on which agency or branch of the military. I had a project where I was helping sort out multiple potential software solutions and trying to help streamline some processes for onboarding people for a very specific command.  People were coming from every branch of the military, as well as from other allied forces. One problem we had was that most paperwork didn’t start until individuals were on base. This means we were looking at three weeks potentially to get new people the access they need to do their jobs in positions where many of them would only be for six months to a year. As you can imagine that makes the three-week lag time to start the work crucial.

As I was ironing out the onboarding work, I had to discuss with a Colonel a detailed process for how some paperwork was handled. He covered with me how he thought the process was defined, which was written in some process documentation from 5 years previous. I explained to him that I didn’t think this was the process I followed when I recently came onboard approximately a month earlier. I then asked if I could talk to his team about how they actually handle the process and not deal with just what was written down from years earlier.

The Colonel didn’t like that much. At first, he got irritated with me and firmly stated that “this is the process, and this is how it works”. So, then I gently asked him if the process written down was what he followed when he came onboard in the past year. He thought about that for a moment and decided it wasn’t. Then he called in the person that handles the process.

When we got to discuss this with the individual that actually handles the work, we learned that the process changed and somehow the Colonel had found old documentation. We made sure as we were building out the solution to take the actual process into account that was used.

Afterwards, the colonel asked me “How did you know I was wrong?” I explained to him I didn’t know if he was wrong. I just find it best to confirm with the people that do the job, how the job is done.

If not 100% sure on something, go and confirm that you have it right.

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