Reflections on Travel

One of the perks of my job is that I occasionally get to travel overseas to work with teams in other countries.  While we do process and document reviews, the real value is in seeing how those teams perceive our work, and what they really need to do their jobs.  In the last round, we learned that none of the “global employee discounts” really work.  We also found that the online home for HR information makes perfect sense to the people who built it, but very little to those for whom it was built.

A simple lesson, then, to take away.  It doesn’t matter how good your change management is.  It doesn’t matter how awesome your website looks.  It doesn’t matter that your project is really important to you.  What matters is what the customer thinks, and what they need.  In fact, there were several things they really needed that have already been developed and deployed.   They just didn’t know about them. Tragic.

Those become our quick response items.  We can help them with their everyday work, and really drive some value into the organization.  Then we can work on the more complex issues where we really need their help.  But piling onto their current workload isn’t the best way to make friends.

So the simple lessons upon reflection are these.

1) Ask, don’t tell.

2) Clarify, especially when dealing with a language barrier.

3) Do the work yourself when possible, but ask your user to validate.

4) Make it as simple as possible, and no simpler.   (HT: A. Einstein.  Smart dude, that guy.)

5) It doesn’t matter how much you want the answer to be choice A if the real answer is choice B.

6) Nothing beats face to face meetings with live system walk-throughs.

Simple lessons, and ones we should know.  But good to remind ourselves on occasion.

Finally, with respect to Paul Smith (master of blog music), here’s the song that I could not get out of my head for those two weeks.  I must have listened to it 50 times during the trip, and still it hung around.  Now its yours.


  1. The music reference sums up your post well, grasshopper. So much of what we do for work is egocentric. (It is beyond creating shelter and hunting for food.) When we create for others, we still want to believe that the baby we created is pretty. It is hard to accept that you have an ugly baby. When we have an ugly baby, we can feel like creeps and wonder what we’re doing here.

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