We all have our routines, our work spaces, the tasks we complete each day. We have the tools we use, we have our set of skills and knowledge that we apply each day to do the jobs we do. All of these things are important, and absolutely necessary, to our careers, to ‘getting the job done’. But it’s not enough to know your job and your job only. Having a basic understanding of the jobs and environments of others in your company or your industry is one of the things I advocate to everyone I speak to. With a relatively small investment of time and effort, you will gain better insight to how to do your job better, and how what you do affects others you work with.
Making connections, tripping pipe, running a beat, checking valves and flows, throwing chain, climbing a radio tower, working the boards, PM on an engine, WAN connections, tunnels, VPN security, HR processes for onboarding, executive needs for investor meetings… I can’t do a single one of these things. I don’t have the knowledge or skills necessary to any of it. But I ‘understand’ what the people who DO have to go through, the things they need, the environments they work in. And that understanding makes me better at the job ‘I’ do.
Too often I have seen people in my same position (Information Technology Customer Support) ask someone to ‘just bring their equipment in to the office’ to get it fixed. When that person is 50 miles out in the middle of a ranch, on dirt roads, with 20 more stops to make before the end of the day. By understanding that, I put more effort into helping them over the phone, and usually can get them back working enough to at least get their work for the day, and can address more difficult issues when they are back on town, on their schedule.
Or tell someone else they will have to wait until ‘next week’ for their request to be met because it would take too much time to work on right now when the request is imperative to repair an issue with industry product reporting. I know that person has people above him demanding it be fixed so they can make an accurate prediction of production over the week, which affects the company’s bottom line. And it turns out the reporting issue is an IT issue, easily fixed, and had nothing to do with making changes to the reporting process or to the report itself. A communication issue, both causing the problem, and making the problem worse by not having an understanding of what the person making the request DOES.
Another example: someone calls in: they are grumpy, they are rude, they use foul language, and they want someone to fix their problem NOW. Instead of getting defensive, and retaliating by getting rude back at them, I know that guy is out on a drilling rig, I know his job probably has had him up far longer than comfortable, and that his job literally can kill someone out there if he doesn’t do it right. While I won’t make an excuse for abusive behavior, I have had enough experience to know that if I talk calmly, reassure him while I am addressing the issue, and listen to his rant (which sometimes is all they need to do), I can bring the situation under control, and get him back to work, often in a much better mood that he started with. He’s not angry at me, he’s frustrated, he’s tired, he’s stressed. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
I spend time on rigs, I spend time in the fields, I spend time at the plants, I spend time at field offices, I spend time at the corporate office. Never once has management questioned why – I am quite lucky in that all of my managers understand this very thing I’m sharing with you today: understanding the people, the locations, the environments, is vital to me being a better employee.
In the title I mentioned perspective will help others be more productive as well. If you understand the limitations and challenges of a department, location, or position, you won’t be making requests from them that make their jobs harder, you can make informed reasonable requests and suggestions that better fit in with their needs, making them more efficient as well.
If you are a manager, make it a point that each of your staff persons spend some time in the departments and locations their jobs affect. Make it part of your training when you bring on new hires. Let them meet the people their work affects, and let them meet the people who will be making requests from them. You will be providing them invaluable knowledge. If your management doesn’t offer these opportunities to you, ask for it. Help your company understand the benefit the investment will bring.
Do you have an example of how knowing more about your company’s different departments and locations would (or has) made your job easier and more productive? Share it in the comments!