"Why are you doing that like that?"
12 March 2010
One of the phrases I often hear just before a business takes a step forward in efficiency or innovation is "Why are you doing that like that?". The phrase can be uttered by an expert in an application sitting next to a novice and leads to a greater understanding in the novice and hopefully updated operational guides. Another valuable time this phrase is uttered is when the designer, architect or business analyst is sat with a novice. In this case it teaches the professionals specifying the system that something that is obvious to them is not always obvious to someone just learning the system. Finally the times when I've heard this phrase and seen the greatest positive impact in the shortest time is when the builder of the application sits next to the person who's livelihood depends on using the application effectively. This is the time when "why are you doing that like that?" can yield insights into how the application is really used. Such insights can demonstrate how certain shortcuts can fool the commission system for instance, how a feature actually gets in the way of efficient use of the application or even demonstrate that the way customers interact with the organisation is just not what was expected. The response from those who built the application when faced with this is often swift and full of energy. Sometimes they simply know a better way through the system and that can lead to massive savings. Failing that they invariably can think of a shortlist of 5 quick fixes that would make the whole interaction more efficient. In many mid to large size organisations these days the folks on the front line talking to customers are often in a very different part of the organisation to the folks who built their applications - sometimes the only common manager is the CEO. Despite these differences and hurdles - regularly getting someone who supports and maintains your key applications to sit and watch an expert user will frequently yield greater efficiencies for the organisation and greater understanding in both parties. Actively seek to create moments where one member of your organisation asks another, "Why are you doing that like that?"