“Are you sure you know what you need to succeed?”

by Kai Davis | Last Updated: October 30, 2020
“Are you sure you know what you need to succeed?”

At Burning Man, the #1 most valuable resource is shade.

(Shade?)

Remember, Burning Man takes place…

It gets hot. Shade is life.

In 2017, my humble crew went to Burning Man. We brought enough shade stuff to fill a U-Haul, cover ~10,000 square feet, and keep half of the ~65 humans in the camp safe and cool.

When it was time to leave Burning Man, we faced the difficult task of disassembling all of the camp’s shade structures (~20,000+ square feet):

Not ideal, but we were up for the challenge.

A camp buddy — Buddy — had an idea about how to approach this challenge. It was the first time they’d disassembled something like this, but they were feeling confident in their approach.

Buddy grabbed ~8 people from around the camp, formed a team, and started by taking down an auxiliary 10′ x 50′ shade structure.

I won’t throw shade at Buddy or his approach, but… it didn’t work out so well. Two hours passed without any progress.

I asked if I could help. Buddy said yes, and I approached the problem like a consultant by asking three questions:

  1. What’s the outcome we’re aiming to achieve?
  2. What don’t we know? How’s that hindering us?
  3. Who has experience with this/has done it before and can share some insight?

The answers came back as:

  1. Take down the shade structures (with minimal/no injuries) before the sunset
  2. We don’t have a process to follow, which means this is taking a lot longer than we needed.
  3. The Camp Founder — standing 150′ away — has done this 10+ times. They might have some wisdom to share.

So, I wandered over to The Camp Founder, struck up a conversation, and asked for his perspective on how to approach dismantling the shade structures.

I won’t bore you with the logistical details, but suffice it to say he had an easy, quick solution, and with a team of just three people, we were able to dismantle all of the camp’s shade structures in record time.

When you’re working on a project and the outcome you’re aiming for is attached to an expensive problem, you want to make sure you know what you need to succeed.

The best way to do that is by asking a lot of questions.

Three of my favorite questions to ask a client during a project kickoff or roadmap ([https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/])?

  1. What’s the problem? What outcome are we aiming for?
  2. How will we know if we’ve succeeded?
  3. What don’t we know? How’s that hindering us?

Those three questions can help you understand where you (or your client) have blindspots or are missing information. Then, you can go out, ask questions, and find the information, answers, or processes you need.

If you want to get better at asking your clients questions — the right questions, essential questions, questions that get at the heart of the problem they’re facing — then you want to investigate roadmapping.

Roadmapping (aka paid discovery projects) gives you a structured, focused discovery period at your project’s start.

You can use this time to investigate the problem you/your client are facing with input from your client and then define the right path forward.

Included with Quick Start Roadmapping ([https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/]) is a pair of resources that will significantly help you level up the questions you’re asking your clients and how you’re asking these questions:

A Roadmapping Questionnaire Template

You can send this questionnaire to your client at the start of the engagement for them to fill out and return ahead of your kickoff meeting.

That way, by the time you have your first meeting, you’ll already have a firm idea of where you need more information.

A swipe file of questions

You can use these to customize the questions included in the questionnaire template .

I start every project by sending my client a questionnaire template. It’s the only way to ensure I know what I need to succeed. https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/.

Excelsior!

Kai

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