When You Don’t Know Your Stuff

Get in the trenches and figure stuff out at a deeply technical level. It makes your decisions more informed.

The trenches are a great place to be for a while, especially in highly technical areas of work. If a manager is only speaking at a high level about some business system that they have never used in daily work, then the discussion can become quite academic and removed. Talking about something and knowing your stuff are two different things.

The way I look at it, a manager can be a good salesperson and merely sell words. They learn the jargon to sound intelligent, but if they never get intimate with how things actually work in daily work with all its nuance and stress, then there is a disconnected conversation altogether when frustrations arise.

I like being in the trenches and testing the boundaries of a system. I like the challenge of knowing what buttons do and how a database structure works. It is not necessarily for being a user of a system, but being someone who can intelligently help to create strategies and frameworks for leverage.

I think this is what makes great product designers and artists. They are not speaking from a distant, theoretical view. They actually worked through failures and struggled with features that were less than ideal.

Of course, this means you have to be comfortable with failure. That’s the heartbreaking part of the cycles of using the tools and systems that the doers struggle with. They can appreciate the effort it takes to create something or get something shipped. Their challenge is to ensure there is appreciation for the value and work put forth to make things happen, which may or may not be their forte.

Things can get complex fast. My encouragement is to always start with intimate knowledge before driving business decisions. Otherwise, the conversation becomes both uninformed and fraught with gaps that could have been filled with knowing what you are talking about.

Know what I am talking about?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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