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Becoming an Expert on Experts

July 1, 2011

By Michael Tatham, President, The Tatham Group.

The majority of business owners and operators don’t understand the purpose of having and using an expert.

During the assessment stage of Boot Camp we facilitate participants through a very important part of the ‘discovery process’ in order to have consistency when using the process of observation.  We do this to find out more about what you as a company are “really” doing.  More often than not there are always discrepancies or hidden ways.  These inconsistencies lead good people down rabbit holes that are time consuming, costly and deflating.

On average I receive from 3 to 5 calls daily from customers searching for solutions that I may have encountered in our other clients.  At times I’ve been called patronizing because instead of providing the answers I ask questions.  But it is all for a good reason.  Below is a sample discussion I had with a customer that had attended Boot Camp but fell back into fire fighting mode.

Q:  At what point in Boot Camp does this scenario remind you of?

A:  Push assessment Step 3 where we were tasked to understand more about what we were currently doing.

Q:  Then what happened?

A:  We made sure that the series of steps that we followed to create the desired outcome were consistent across the board.

Q:  Were they?

A:  No.

Q:  So what did we do?

A:  Ran an exercise that helped us develop consistency when observing our work.

Q:  Then what?

A:  Once it was consistent we observed closer and closer until we could see where some of our customer issues were occurring.

Q:  At this point what did the group want to do?

A: Come up with a solution.

Q:  Was this the right time to be coming up with solutions?  Why?

A: No.  We were on step 3 and everyone wanted to keep jumping to step 10.  We first needed to understand what we were doing today and discover if any of the customer issues were visible in the now.

…Long silence.

…Right…Chuckle…

A: We discovered our consistent process and saw some of our customer defects but still didn’t know enough of what was going on to proceed.

…At this point I only listened.

A:  I recall us calling on an expensive expert, but he was really patronizing…kind of like you right now.  (Laughs)

A:  The group kept asking the expert for solutions but he just wouldn’t crack!  I was thinking to myself, what are we paying him for if he can’t solve this for us?  It was at this point that I recognized how our culture struggles with discipline, focus and execution.

Q:  So what are you going to do about it?

A:  Ask the right questions and hopefully find an expert that has enough intimacy with what we are investigating into to help us better understand what is going on.  NOT TO GIVE US ANY SOLUTIONS!

The outcome was what you may have expected.  The expert wanted to provide all the answers but this particular customer knew how to ask the right questions to keep enough focus and move on to the next step.