Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Where You're Insecure
I spend s fair amount of time talking to people. Usually when I start a new gig, I'm there because some change is desired. There might be a problem, or maybe we want to build the next part of the big dream, or there's a process problem, or there's a need for growth. My first step when I come in is to shut up and listen. I talk to everyone who will spend time with me (donuts make good bribes). And I learn a lot, both about the thing being changed and about the people involved. Many people are looking forward to change. They want to solve the problem, or build something cool. And some people are really defensive. I walk away and I think to myself: Holy crow, this guy was defensive. But why? I actually don't know. I don't know this guy at all, so I don't know what's in his head. But I can guess. He's worried because it's an area where there might be a problem. Most of the time when I run across someone who is defensive about something, it's because they have enough fear about that thing to think there's a real problem. And it's often a fear based on some evidence. And THAT means it's useful. For example, I was working with a new team, and I had been brought in to analyze their content production process. So I sat down with all sorts of people who were involve, and I asked them about the process. I got a range of responses. The writers mostly thought it was fine; they liked the current process because it was easier. The editors hated it, since they were the ones who had to keep writers and drafts in sync, and they spent a lot of time copying content from one system or another. And then I ran into the graphics guy, and he was defensive. He thought everything was just fine thank you very much. And he didn't think any changes at all would be a good idea ever. It took some diving, but eventually I learned that the graphics guy was a pretty good layout person, and he was scared that any change in the process wouldn't let him tweak the layout. In other words, he was scared that a new process would expose a hole that already existed. And that was really good information to find out, because he was right. The new process we were considering didn't account for that at all. So when someone's defensive, dig a little deeper. There's likely to be a good reason why.