Do you understand your business? It is a simple question, however if you answer yes and were asked follow on questions you may be in a position where you made assumptions on what you ‘think’ the business is all about rather than on concrete information.
A good example of this is when someone in your business says that functionality in a particular application is not working as it should. If you truly understand the business you should be in a position to validate if this particular issue is impactful or not.
The trouble is that when we don’t fully understand our business we enter into a seemingly never ending loop of assumption and treat all things with equal amounts of importance. On the surface this may appear to work for a while until we spend time working on one issue when we should have worked on another which ends up impacting the business negatively
How do we remedy this?
Take yourself out of the equation
We often get caught up on ‘loudest voice’ activities. If this term is new to you, I am referring to the work that gets done by who might escalate something the most rather than its impact on achieving business outcomes. Taking an objective look from a step back will allow you to look at the big picture. The trick is that while you will still need to address the loudest voice you need to manage what really matters to the business and ensure those who are escalating understand the reasoning behind it
Admitting you don’t know
For some, admitting that you don’t know something is difficult but it is the first step in the journey to understanding. Look at this in terms of what knowledge is:
Validated – Information that we know to be accurate through a source of truth
Assumed – Information that we think we know or are certain we heard somewhere, but not validated
Uncertain – Information that may be different depending on the person you ask
Unknown – No one is sure of the answer
Separating these items will allow you to get a good sense of the knowledge about your business. This will position you to see what information you don’t have and also what is assumed. The later will like may be assumed by others so sharing what you learn about your business is an important part of the understanding process.
The key is that when you look at the information you have to not get discouraged on all the data that cannot be validated. It might be a daunting task however this should be looked at in terms of a marathon rather than a race. This is simply an opportunity to learn about your business and improve relationships with people who work there.