Understand the request


It’s embarrassing how obvious it is but…

Early in my career, I was staffed on a project to organize 500 people to move from a downtown office to a suburban office. Hold on… I was a programmer and a database administrator, and now I was asked to get everyone organized. It sounded so simple and beneath me. So ok, I can do it.

I was told to inventory the details of all firm-owned electronics that each employee had. Easy, right? Someone from corporate sent me an email itemizing what they needed me to collect. Huh? Half of the things I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t know where to find a computer SSI number. How could I ask that? My self-doubt led me to believe that anyone smart should know that so I better not ask. So I simply forwarded the corporate email to people, 500 people.

Could you predict my upcoming dilemma? Hundreds of incoming questions that I could not answer. It was SO obvious. Of course, I needed to understand before I gave instructions to others. After MANY attempts to answer the questions and MANY iterations at trying to answer the questions.

This taught me the importance of asking questions, finding information, and how to write easy to follow instructions.

Thanks to Nancy Mullen for staffing me on that project as it began my journey to become an Instructional Designer. More importantly it taught me how to ask enough questions and to aim for simplicity.

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