When you are on the ‘same page’ as the business you will engender a deeper level of conversation, you will ask better questions, you will push back on the right issues and overall you will command the respect of your colleagues beyond your functional (task, project, product) brilliance.
You should know and be able to quickly articulate key business details such as:
Don’t settle with just understanding the ‘Marketing’, ‘Risk’, ‘Operations’ departments as your customers.
While they may be your 'direct customers', you should also care to learn about your customer’s customer.
Who are they serving?
Request that you join your customer when they meet with their customers, this will give you another level of context, perspective and depth in understanding the ‘end customer’.
By getting to know your customer’s customer, you will think differently about the problem you are solving and you will have a different conversation and create a higher level of rapport with your direct customer.
It’s easy to jump into problem solving mode. The question is are you solving the right problems?
Often you’ll have clarity on ‘What’ you need to do and given your skills you’ll know the ‘How’.
To increase your relevance and value, make sure you are also clear on the ‘WHY’.
By understanding the ‘Why’ you will think creatively about the problem and solution – if you understand the ‘why’ you may recognise you’ve been tasked with the incorrect ‘what’.
Additionally the conversation of the ‘why’ will help build trust between you and the people you are collaborating with.
To get context and perspective, step away from the data, models and charts and put yourself in position to observe what you are meant to be measuring or solving in its physical form.
Things beyond the numbers will jump out at you that can dictate the success or failure of your solutions.
Certain industry nuances, the political landscape of the organisation, the organisation’s readiness to adopt change, culture and values, the user experience and the customer journey will all give you greater levels of insight beyond the numbers.
The best insights and advice, not executed will create zero value.
So in addition to understanding the ‘why’, seek to understand the ‘actions’ that will be taken given your insights.
Often this will be outside of your domain or direct sphere of influence and that is exactly the point.
To move beyond being ‘just the function person’ you should seek clarity (accountability) from your colleagues on what will be done with your contribution (insights, advice, task, project), in what time frame and how you and your colleagues will be informed about the impact.
The right (balanced) team composition is critical to ensure success with projects.
In addition to your functional expertise, identify what who else needs to bring in their expertise - customer advocates, subject matter experts, solution architects, engineers, data specialists, marketing, operations, risk, legal experts etc.
So regardless of your role or function, relationships with these colleagues, they are all important contributors to delivering success. You will learn from them, you will teach them and most importantly you will have established a bridge, which will raise your value.
We often hear importance of 'telling stories'. This is often interpreted as a need for 'sales' or 'management roles'. I suggest we don't need to limit this to just those roles or functions and you don't need to be overly creative.
Share with them your understanding of the ‘business’, your knowledge of the ‘customer’s customer’, the ‘why’ of what you are working on, the insights you gained by ‘stepping away from the numbers’ and how you expect the your insights to be turned into ‘actions’ to deliver value.
Share with people your experimentations, your success, failures and learnings.
You will learn from their feedback and corrections, you will build respect with your openness and willingness to share and teach and you will establish your voice in your organisation.
By (over) communicating with people you are keeping a close check on the pulse of your relationships and you're bringing people on the journey.
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