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Tell Me What I Need To Know

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren.

"Tell us what we need to know" is a line from a recent PASS Board meeting, something I said in trying to explain to our staff when to engage the Board about a problem or a decision. As you might expect it wasn’t met with initial enthusiasm and I bet you know why; it’s open ended.

As a consultant or employee that can feel like a recipe for failure. Especially in IT we like precision and literalness. It’s easy to go home feeling like you did your job if you know the rules – if A + B = C then notify D.

It’s not a statement designed to make anyone fail.  It reflects the total impossibility of defining a set of rules that would cover all scenarios, and it also reflects that for any manager they only have a given number of hours per day and they count on their teams to filter appropriately what gets passed up the hill for comment. Most of us know when we’re getting into uncharted territory or dangerous areas, when it would be wise to give the boss a quick update to make sure that the situation is under control.

As a consultant or an employee it’s a valuable, maybe even critical skill, to figure out what to tell the boss and when.  It’s an analog problem, not one that can be solved with source code. You won’t always get it right, but it’s easier than you think to get it right most of the time. It’s a little unsettling to start with, but once you get into the groove with a new manager or client it’s surprisingly easy to figure out what and when and how to let them know the things that they need to know.

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