Know Your Audience, Don’t Argue With Them

As a Writer, one of the biggest points brought about by Publishers and Editors is to Know Your Market.  After all, if you’re going to be spending time crafting a book for adults but your market is children, you’re going to find yourself with a lot of unsold books. I have found that the same focus is true/ required in the business world.

One of the biggest chasms that I’ve seen in my career is the one that divided the IT and Business teams.  IT generally expected the Business to be as up to date in Technology as they were, and the Business generally expected IT to understand exactly what the Business did and needed! Meetings often became mini Towers-of-Babel filled with IT folks not getting why the Business couldn’t use the technology as developed and the Business not getting why IT couldn’t see how the Business really worked!

Needless to say, an IT-to-Business Rosetta Stone would have made all the difference. Alternatively, just exercising Empathic Listening and attempting to understand what the other person is saying (and needs) could have made the experience more enjoyable and mutually beneficial.

Basically, here is what I suggest:

1- Leave the Ego at the door.  Don’t go into this thinking you know more than anyone else.  Go into the meeting certain that you don’t know the whole story.

2- Know your audience. If you don’t think you need to know all the tax laws by heart, then don’t expect them to know the latest core build or even the difference between right-and-left mouse clicks! (Yes, seriously.)

Of course, the point is not to speak to each other like children, but rather to remember why you are supposed to work together/ what you’re trying to solve. Technology alone can’t solve everything without understanding the process flow that makes up your Business Partner’s day. Collaboration begins with first understanding what the current process is, and then trying to understand what the “perfect end state” should be.  This is not a question of “what are you trying to DO?” but more a perfecting of “what are you trying to achieve?”

I explain it this way:  The Business is very unhappy with their coffee.  The IT Team comes up with all these awesome solutions around automated delivery of coffee that is triggered when the Business Partner sits at their desk, or a point-click-order system right off their monitor screen. The Business doesn’t understand why they have to invest in the time and money to put this new system in place and argue against it. “What if I don’t want a coffee when I sit down? What if my Monitor is not a touch-screen?”

Back and forth it goes, both sides getting more frustrated as one side tries to “sell” their vision to the other.  In the meantime, no one has gotten to the point of the meeting: what does the Business really want/ need to do?  If they had, perhaps they would have realized that it wasn’t the coffee that was the problem, or even the delivery system, but that nine times out of ten the fridge was out of milk!

This seems like a simplistic “problem” that I made up for the purposes of this post.  However, change the coffee for an Inventory Management system and milk for Excel and you might get closer to truth of where this story came from.

In the end, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about coming together to build a better mousetrap. And unless you are tasked with building a mousetrap to capture a bear, remember what I said in a previous post: if you want successful collaboration, it begins with communication. Listen to what your partners need, and explain your vision to them in a language they understand.  Respect each other’s opinions and try to see from what position they’re coming to you for help. When blocking points happen, it’s okay to take a break and meet again later.  You’re all in the same boat rowing to your destination. You’ll get there a lot faster if you row together.



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