Are you afraid of asking “dumb” questions?
In this video I talk about some of the tips for business analysts. Specifically, I talk about some of the things you should and should not do as a new or even practicing business analyst, and give you some general guidelines for the ‘Grace Period’ concept.
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Intro| How To Ask “Dumb” Questions The Right Way
Are you afraid of asking dumb questions. And I put that word in quotes because some analysts out there are afraid to ask a lot of very basic questions because they might think to themselves that oh this sounds like a dumb question I don’t want to come across like a person that doesn’t understand stuff right. And I’m here to tell you that as a new analyst when you’re first starting out you have to ask a lot of dumb questions what might seem like dumb questions here. And if you’re a be a generalist you have to get used to doing that over and over again. Every time you switch companies or you switch domains or you switch even projects inside the same company you have to get used to the idea that you’re starting from scratch.
And a lot of the questions that you’re asking are things that you need to know but they might come across as like a dumb or a stupid question to the people that you’re asking them. So you have to get very used to doing this. If you want to be an analyst especially if you want to be a Generalist BA (business analyst). And I want to give you some guidance in this video on how you can do that and some of the things you should not do.
So number one I want to talk to you about what I like to call the grace period. Every time you start a new job or you start a new company or sometimes even when you start a new project you have a certain grace period in which you have total free reign with any kind of questions that you want to ask or if you have questions that might seem dumb to you. If you asked him within the grace period it’s perfectly legitimate. OK so I’ll talk a little bit about that.
I want to talk about some of the benefits of asking dumb questions and then I want to talk to you about the some of the things you shouldn’t do. OK.
1| The Grace Period
So number one let’s talk about the grace period. Every time you start in a new company. You have a certain amount of time where not only is it okay for you to be asking those types of questions but it is expected for you to be asking those types of questions. Okay. So every time I start a new project for example I go through a process where I have to ramp up Michael main knowledge really quickly to be able to be effective on the project in order to do that. I have to learn a lot of times from the basics. I have tell you from you know the basic building blocks of whatever area that I am in.
And in doing so I know that I have a certain grace period. So general guidelines I know I’d say is that if you’re starting off in a completely new job in a new company totally new environment your maximum grace period is probably between 60 and 90 days. OK 90 days a bit of a stretch for most jobs that you’re going to start. But I would say within the first 30 days you’re totally safe asking any kind of question that you have to within 60 days is probably still acceptable within 90 days you might be stretching it a bit. But one of the things you should not do is that you know you’re one or two years in or you know even nine months to a year end and you start asking a lot of basic questions that you should have been asking way upfront you don’t want to do that right.
So the grace period for starting new jobs at new companies I would say on average if you want to try to get in all of those types of questions within the first 30 or 60 days 90 if you if you really want to stretch it if you’re starting on a new project let’s say inside the same company you use your time lines are pretty constrained. So I would say that that’s probably in the order of weeks. The first month of the project is probably the maximum the first month month and a half of the project depending and again this is very general guideline.
So this will change depending on the subject matter and how much previous experience you have at the company etc etc. Generally speaking if you’re well within a project and you’re leading the analysis part of this you should not be asking any basic questions a month and a half to two months and you should understand that stuff right upfront. So just outside of those time guidelines you kind of you’ve got to feel it out to see whether the questions you’re asking are appropriate for the time that you’re asking them. You really got to fill it out for every situation but understand the concept. The basic concept is that there is a concept of the grace period and you have to make sure that you use that grace period to your advantage to be able to ramp up and knowing that there is a grace period should make you a lot more comfortable asking a lot of the very basic questions that you might not feel comfortable asking if you’re just starting out right.
So understand the concept of the grace period. Use it to your advantage. The benefits of using the grace period to do that is number one asking people questions is the fastest way for you to get to the information that you need.
2| The Benefits Of Asking “Dumb” Questions
So you have a lot of other options you can pile through a lot of cleaning documentation if you’re trying to learn about the system. You can try to find a lot of process related documentation inside your company you can do you know you can search on Google or you can read textbooks if you’re trying to learn about the domain but asking people who do the work directly the questions that you need to have answered is by far the quickest way for you to learn. And so that is the single biggest benefit of you taking a bit of a risk sometimes to ask what you might think is a dumb question. The benefits of that pay off hugely because you get it. There’s a there’s a gap in your mind about something and you got a very specific answer to cover that gap. And it fills your understanding in a way that no amount of research that you would do on your own can. So that is the single biggest benefit of you asking a lot of quote unquote dumb questions right.
The other benefit of you asking these dumb questions is that it puts the other people on your project at ease because the expectation that a lot of people have when they see somebody new starting in the project is they expect that person to be asking a lot of very basic questions. And for them it’s a bit of a red flag. If they see a person not asking those questions so for example if I joined you know if I had a new client and I started up a project on a domain that I had no knowledge about and I wasn’t asking a lot of questions to my client that should
be a clear red flag. And I in the tech world a lot of times in the development world they call it going dark. So if they hire a new developer and that person just stays quiet for the first two weeks then the lead developer will know immediately that there’s a problem there right. And so the other benefit if you ask him those questions is that it puts the other people who are expecting you to ask those questions at ease because they know that things are on the right track because you’re asking the questions that you need to to be able to ramp yourself up. And so this might seem a little counter-intuitive if you’re just starting out you’re in your new because your basic understanding or your default understanding of that situation is is that you don’t want to look dumb by asking a lot of questions when in fact it’s the opposite.
You don’t want to raise any red flags by not asking those questions. So you have to make yourself very comfortable asking a lot of questions you might you know you might not be comfortable asking. So those are the two major benefits. The first thing you should not do which is something I’ve already mentioned is that you should not ever ask those types of questions outside of your grace period. So again the grace period is a bit of a no hard and fast rules I give you some general guidelines but there are no hard and fast rules. You have to really just kind of sense it out to say OK if I ask this question now right. Is this going to. Is this going to make people question whether I really understand this because I’ve already done a lot of work with the assumption that I have this knowledge right. You would never want to get yourself into that position right. So that’s why I like my strategy for making sure I completely avoid that situation at all costs is that as soon as I start a project I basically just start asking all of the very basic dumb questions that I have to make sure I never end up in a situation where I’m asking those questions that I should’ve had answers to months in advance in some cases it can be it can be difficult to do that because either because the volume or the complexity or there are certain things that you just don’t know you need to know right. Those are the unknown unknowns as they call them. There are certain things you don’t know that you need to know.
And so you wouldn’t even think to ask the question. Right. So in some cases it’s gonna be totally unavoidable. But those things will be understandable by everybody else around you. Right. People say Well yeah. Obviously he didn’t understand this concept because it’s very unique to our situation. There’s no other way that this person could have known that right. And this is not a bad time for asking. But generally speaking try to get all of those types of questions in upfront. Do not get yourself into a position where you’re asking those questions way too far down the line. The other thing that you don’t want to do is that you don’t want to keep on repeating the same question over and over again. Right. People’s time is very important whenever somebody who has that knowledge dedicates the time to try to help you ramp up.
You have to respect that time very well and you buy by respect that time I mean that you come very well prepared to be able to record the answers to those questions and that you learn how to absorb that stuff. So you’re not constantly repeating the same questions over and over again because if you do that people will feel that you’re not really listening to them when you have served their time. And eventually what that does is it erodes their confidence in your ability to do the work and eventually what people will. Some people will tend to do is that they’ll stop giving you their time right. So that’s just some basic general advice Do not be afraid to ask dumb questions in fact ask them all within the grace period. That’s the message of this video. I’ll see you on the next one.