Take off the white coat

T-SQL Tuesday I was talking with Rob the other day about how business people tend to try and talk technical but end up meaning something completely different, which reminds me of a phenomenon in the medical industry know as ‘White Coat Syndrome’. Basically what happens is that a patients blood pressure will increase from being anxious about having their blood pressure taken - it’s a vicious cycle. How does this relate to miscommunication? I’ll get to that later…

Early in my career I was involved in a project that to put it mildly, went spectacularly wrong. There were many reasons, some finger pointing and some heated discussions, but it mostly boiled down to a certain technology that was chosen before the requirements were determined and the client insisted on not seeing anything until it was 100% perfect. While it’s easy to play the blame game in the end it all came down to a breakdown of communication. Now to be honest I feel like the topic for this months T-SQL Tuesday is a bit of a trap. While it’s easy to say that you’re right and the client/business is wrong to me that’s just ego and like in a car accident the mere fact that I was there means I was part to blame.

Instead I took the whole incident as an opportunity to learn from the collective mistakes. As a consultant I’m a big believer in communication, not the continuous meetings and general waffle communication, but clear communication with consideration for what the client/business is actually trying to say. I also firmly believe in prototypes and early  deliverables in order to get something in front of the client as soon as possible to keep the communication loop open. Perhaps its the developer in me, but it’s very much about applying Agile methodologies to data. Take a read of this classic post by Kathy Sierra.

So how does this apply to white coats? It’s more about learning how to interpret the false positives, looking behind the curtain and figuring out the real problem. Getting to know the business and work out what they are really after.

Author | Roger Noble

C-Founder and CTO of Zegami - a data visualisation tool for viewing large collections of images within a single field of view.