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What you need to do differently next time you talk to an expert: Jagdish Belwal

It’s commonplace to be in a situation where you’ve been assigned a job – may be a stretch assignment – and you need external help, especially high-end experts to seek advice from!

When I took over as a CIO for the first time, I had strong credentials on CRM, Analytics, Business Value and Change Management. But I had little knowledge of SAP and Infrastructure – two core building blocks of any IT. So, I decided to consult the top industry advisors.

As I started engaging with these experts, I found a lot of experience and global expertise available, but it was very generic. I wanted to get advice that is specific to our organisation, strategy and challenges. The advice had to be actionable. But the experts’ time was scarce so you only got 30 min at a time, with a lead time of a week at a minimum.

The Core Issue – Our Context: We root caused the lack of actionable and contextual advice to, well lack of contextual knowledge about us. Seriously, the experts do not know who you are and what you are up to, and that’s why you get generic advice

We got to the drawing board and designed a process around it to obtain context-specific expertise in 30 minutes. This process included:

  1. Creating an enquiry template that clarifies the 5 W’sand 1 H of the query.
  • The template has information about the company, the IT department, our operational boundaries, our strategy, and partners.
  • The template had placeholders for initiative background, current landscape, current processes and future KPIs, technology options explored, and progress so far.
  • The template contained our problems, decision areas needing expert advice, strategic considerations, industry direction, etc.
  • Finally, the template had questions for the experts. These questions could be a validation for our work, clarifying dark spots, the advice we needed, and risks and challenges in our undertaking.
  1. The template was sent in advance to the experts so that they get to know about the requirement before the call, and ask any clarifying questions that they might have.
  2. When the call took place, the expert was absolutely clear about what we wanted and we came directly to the topic and our specific questions. The first 5 minutes of the call are used for synching up on the questions and the rest 25 minutes for answering the questions.
  3. The productivity of the 30 min call became that of an otherwise 2 hours call of old process.

The by product of this process was the rigour we brought into our own documentation, the clarity about the clarity we needed, and the process becoming widely used – given its own clarity.

  • Creating the template brings clarity to the recipients’ minds as to what they want out of the 30-minute call.
  • Anybody in the organization can use this process as it’s quite clear.

This process resulted in Expert Advice being part of all of our strategic decision-making. We were able to do 15-20 calls with experts per year, as everyone followed this process and found value in the expert advice.

Takeaways

  1. Others will be able to better help you if you make the effort to clarify the context; and state clearly what you expect.
  2. The answers to even the complex problems are in the process.
  3. One should take responsibility of extracting value from a knowledge source, rather than crib.

Did it help? What are you going to do differently next time you talk to an expert?

The article has been written by Jagdish Belwal, Founder and CEO, Jagdish Belwal Advisory

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