Friday, March 14, 2008

A Little Guerrilla Research

I have worked on this campus for over 4 years, but when you work on the medical side, you don't explore much. Your building, the hospital, the med school, and food. That little quad was my world.

Now that I'm working on the academic side, I'm finding all sorts of stuff that I didn't know existed and going to buildings I never knew the name of. Is it any wonder I get lost.....

I was running late for a meeting and was looking particularly clueless when three strapping young university police officers asked me if I needed help. Pretty embarassing when your university ID is hanging around your neck in plain sight. After getting the information I needed (ie Go up one block and turn left, the building you need is on the right), I remembered that we had an upcoming application training project with the University Police.


None of the officers seemed to be in any particular rush, and I was already late for my meeting anyway. They weren't waiting for me (since only 1 person expected me to be there). What's another 5 minutes.....

So I asked a couple questions:
Do you have mobile units?
No. We wish we did. Maybe the chief gets one....

Do you all get access to PCs regularly?
We have access to a pool of computers in the office. We get a chance to use them a few times a day as part of our rotation. Check our email, that sort of thing.

Cool - that was a lot more information than I was getting using the "legitimate" paths. I always find it's good to talk to the folks actually doing the work, even if you have to do it on the sly.

The manager will tell you what is SUPPOSED to be happening. The staff will tell you what is REALLY happening.

And when developing context, that makes all the difference.

(Oh yeah - I missed very little in the meeting. Everything here works on "University time.")


Dave Ferguson said...

Wendy, in the training world, my colleague John Howe makes a useful distinction between subject-matter expert and exemplary performer.

When a prospect or client provides a subject-matter expert, you often end up talking to someone who used to do the job in question. Maybe last month, maybe last year, maybe last job.

Not that she's necessarily wrong in her understanding or description... but she ain't doing the job any more.

Your campus officers, even if they're not exemplars, are doing the job. As you point out, you got valuable information with very little trouble.

Exemplar versus SME: not just semantics.

Wendy said...

That makes sense. Since this is really the first time I've actually had assigned "subject matter experts" I haven't had to make any sort of distinction. The only thing I knew is that the person they give me was usually NOT the person actually doing the work. And, as we know - things change quickly.

Thanks for the definitions and clarification.