Are you afraid of asking “dumb” questions?
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.
GUIDELINES FOR ASKING “DUMB” QUESTIONS
Are you afraid to ask dumb questions?
I’m here to tell you that as a new analyst you have to ask a lot of dumb questions, or what might seem like “dumb” questions.
You have to get used to the idea that you’re starting from scratch.
If you want to become an analyst, especially if you want to be a Generalist BA, you have to get used to asking “dumb” questions over and over again:
- Every time you switch companies
- Every time you switch domains
- Even when you start new projects inside the same company
A lot of the questions that you’re asking are things that you need to know but they might come across as “dumb” or as stupid questions to the people that you’re asking them.
You’re completely safe asking these “dumb” questions within the grace period
How long is the grace period for asking “dumb” questions?
As a general guideline asking dumb questions within 30 – 90 days is the grace period as a new analyst or even a Generalist BA.
Every time you start a new job, start at a new company or 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.
Let’s elaborate on this.
If you ask seemingly “dumb” questions within the grace period it’s perfectly legitimate. OK.
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.
If you start asking a lot of basic questions after 9 months to a year or 2 years in, you should have been asking way upfront.
Starting New Jobs
So the grace period for starting new jobs at new companies would be, on average, to get all questions within the first 30 or 60 days. 90 if you if you really want to stretch it.
Starting New Projects
If you’re starting on a new project let’s say inside the same company and timelines are pretty constrained. In the order of weeks, the first month of the project is probably the maximum.
This changes depending on the subject matter and how much previous experience you have at the company.
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.
Understand the concept of the grace period. Use it to your advantage.
You really have to feel it out for every situation. 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. It 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.
The benefits of using the grace period is that asking people questions is the fastest way for you to get to the information that you need.
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 search on Google or,
- you can read textbooks
If you’re trying learn about the domain, 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.
The single biggest benefit of you taking a bit of a risk sometimes is to ask what you might think is a dumb question and get answers.
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. 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 “dumb” questions.
2. It’s counter-intuitive, but puts people at ease
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.
For them it’s a bit of a red flag if they see a person not asking those questions.
For example 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.
In the tech world a lot of times in the development world they call it going dark.
It puts those people who are expecting you to ask those questions at ease because they know that things are on the right track. You’re asking the questions that you need to to be able to ramp yourself up. This might seem a little counter-intuitive if you’re just starting out and you’re 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.
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 rule
You have to really just kind of sense it out. So that’s why I like my strategy for making sure I completely avoid that situation at all costs. 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 the volume or the complexity or there are certain things that you just don’t know you need to know.
Those are the unknown unknowns as they call them. There are certain things you don’t know that you need to know.
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.