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If You Want to Understand What Makes a Company Tick, You Have to Get Your Hands Dirty (or at least your shoes)

In the world of software implementation and business process consulting the necessary first step in making any recommendation, whether it be for a software system or for revisions in processes and procedures, is what we call the discovery process. Normally that entails rather detailed discussions with key stakeholders in a business. Anyone from a software company or consulting firm tasked with discovery must necessarily be very good at asking discerning, well-conceived questions and even better at listening and putting information into appropriate context.

But those discussions only tell part of the story. For many years I have recommended that our team ask for a “plant tour”. I sometimes call it the “walkabout”. It’s amazing how much information can be gleaned by walking around the business offices, warehouses and even production facilities of any business. Generally speaking business owners or their representatives are more than willing to point out both the strengths and weaknesses of their company if they are truly seeking solutions or even advice.

I can recall the various protocols encountered as we were shepherded around various distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. They include everything from the necessity of wearing hard hats to (even worse) hairnets to warnings about the necessity of getting in and out of a “blast freezer” quickly. No problem there!

But the point is that truly understanding the core competencies and differentiations of any company means you may need to visit areas where the real work is done. It can take us out of our comfort zone but the reward is the knowledge gained by interaction with warehousing specialists, production planners, cost accountants and the long list of folks who make a company tick.