Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why aren't you listening?

I've had some interesting experiences over the last week sitting through some training. The training is for a new software package that's going to be rolled out across a reasonably sizeable company and I was in a group with some senior people from the company. Some of the things I saw made me think of how we tend to blame our problems on the "stupidity" of others (as covered in my recent posts on stupid customers, stupid bosses and stupid employees.)

In IT, the frequently heard refrain is that most of our problems are caused by other people's stupidity. If only users would read the fucking manual (RTFM) they'd give us less grief. This seems to make sense on the surface but the real issue is rarely that simple. I, for one, hardly ever RTFM - systems that are too difficult to work out without a manual seldom come with a manual that improves the situation.

A couple of times during the training sessions, some of the users got lost trying to follow some of the most basic processes. I'm talking about not being able to successfully click three times from the home menu. I'm surprised the trainer didn't scream at them to just listen (JFL). The things is, although it would be easy to say they were having trouble with basic things because they were stupid, in this case it was really the opposite.

A short side note: when I complain about workplaces or cow-orkers, I'm almost always talking about previous jobs. My current job is one of the best I've had and my co-trainees are all quite intelligent. In this case it was their intelligence that was derailing them - as they were being shown new features they were coming up with ideas on how the software could be used to improve processes. They were so busy leaping ahead to new frontiers little things like paying attention to how to navigate the software were slipping by them.

As has been pointed out so often by commenters, people accused of being stupid often simply have expertise in a different domain. IT workers call people stupid when they aren't technically oriented, bosses call employees stupid when they don't appreciate strategic issues. So take a breath next time you wish someone would RTFM or JFL - they might not be quite a stupid as you think.

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