And Why Would They Know That?
by Dwayne Phillips
When assuming that another person already knows something, ask, “And why would they know that?”
It happened again the other day at work, someone interrupted a presentation, pointed to something mentioned but not shown, and asked, “But what is that thing? What does it do?”
The presenter, unable to hide the aghast expression lurking under the surface, answered, “That’s the universal do-hicky that universally underlies the entire system and allows it to universally do everything in the universe. Everyone knows that. Surely you know that, huh?”
The presenter and, to spread the blame, the entire presentation team never asked, “And why would they know that?”
They are working on this project. Everyone on this project knows that!
And when did we provide them with that information?
I might blame this on the agile development world. We value working software or systems more than documentation. Sometimes this becomes, we value working software or systems and disdain and neglect documentation. If a project lasts more than six weeks, it is probably worth the time and money to document things well and in a manner that makes it easy for new persons to enter the project and know what everyone else knows.
Then again, back in the days before we were all agile we didn’t have good documentation. New persons were chastised for not knowing what they should know. No one asked, “And why would they know that?”
Those who knew such things had job security and, more importantly, a feeling of superiority over the unknowing who were just cannon fodder for the next round of job layoffs.
Sometimes we should ask, “What are we doing here?” If we are doing something worthwhile that will last past the weekend, perhaps we should provide the information others need so that they will know that just like we know it. This isn’t easy. Don’t want to do it? Hire someone to do it. Pay them well to do the task well. It pays for itself later.