Thursday, June 25, 2009

Drinking from a fire hydrant

So I started a new project this week and am in the middle of figuring everything out. I am reminded of when I was starting nuclear power school with the Navy and was told the training was like drinking from a fire hydrant, a lot would be coming out and it was my job to catch as much as I could.

I’m working with a company in financial services, so it isn’t completely alien, but I am finding there is a lot of terminology I am trying to pick up. Add to that the aspect of meeting new people, learning their roles, and how the organization functions. Then there’s the specific aspects of the process that is the subject of the process improvement/BPM project. There are a lot of moving parts.

So how does someone jump into a project and “hit the ground running?” There are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way. The first thing is to get your hands on any documentation and read it. I find that I read everything once, and then go back a couple days later after I have a bit more context and read it again.

Next, ask questions. With a little bit of context, you can ask questions that make it sound like you aren’t completely clueless. I’m usually quiet for the first day or two as I gather that context so I can ask better questions. The questions you ask say a lot about you, or as a t-shirt my daughter has says, “There are no stupid questions, just a lot of inquisitive idiots.”

Finally, you need to relate what you’re doing to what you’ve done before. During some of my conversations with my client in the last day I was able to do this. I could relate some specific requirements they have to what I’ve delivered in past projects. This is when, as a consultant, you show that your experience is worth the money they are paying you to be there.

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