As a parent, I learned a very important skill. When my baby is crying, I become a single-minded answer-seeking cyborg. My quest, my single purpose and total focus is to find the answer to the question – what would it take for my baby to stop crying?
Are you hungry? Are you tired? Thirsty? Need a clean diaper? Is your tummy hurting? Are your teeth cutting? I have food, drinks, a comfy and warm crib, clean diapers, creams and powders, tummy ache drops, teething chew toys… I can rock you in my arms, sing you a song… anything! Just to see you smile again… or fall asleep peacefully. I have a whole arsenal to make my baby happy, content, calm. But not until I figure out why the baby is crying.
When I meet a prospective client, I go into the same mode. Never mind the nonsense “we are looking for a .net guy”. What everybody is looking for is to remove pain points, make a good product and, ultimately, make money. And since most organizations are not great at self-diagnosis, the stated requirements and the opening salvos of the interviews are usually devoid of deep meaning.
I have a fairly large technical toolbox and decades of experience, but all is useless if I try feeding the baby when a change of diaper is what’s needed. So first, I need to get through the crying and misdirection and determine the true source of pain.
Is the architectural vision lacking and so the dev team is drifting along without making meaningful progress? Are the technical skills lacking and the team needs training, oversight, structure, and leadership? Is the Product not providing sufficient guidance and then is huffing and puffing at each demo that the team is not delivering the right bits? Are the integrations too complex for the team or are they unpredictable, unstable, prone to undiscoverable modifications? Is it the lack of tooling and infrastructure? Is the team burdened with manual DevOps or admin duties and is simply frustrated?
Asking questions and really listening to the answers (and the choice of words) is a good start. I try to listen for where the negative adjectives start appearing. “Daunting”, “tedious”, “hard” are telltales that you are close to the source of pain in you discovery process. Dig deeper. Ask questions with positive adjectives. Listen and watch.
It’s amazing how much can be accomplished without increasing effort by much once the true causes of pain are identified.