Searching For Clues

When it comes to a new job in a new organization, good detective work is the difference between succeeding and failing

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When you’re venturing into a new job, you’re temporarily disadvantaged, [and you’re] in a new situation in which you know little about the other players or about how their game is played. Each organization values different things, has different routines, and certainly has a different mix of higher-ups and lower-downs.

Look beyond the official information available about an organization. The mistake that many newcomers make is to assume that someone in authority will give them all the information they need to get the job done. They fail to ask: What information is not given? What is missing? How is the game played in this particular place? You cannot be an effective player until you find out how the “real” organization works.

Like a detective, you should assume that a great deal of information is withheld or disputed or simply not available. Instead of just being a consumer of the information of others, you should make your own observations and assemble your own data, finding out what is missing and what you think you need. What do you want to know that you don’t know?

[We] look at unofficial and official sources of information: What can you learn from your predecessor? Who are your supporters and detractors? What can internal reports and memos tell you? Doing detective work produces more reliable answers than just relying on what people want you to know.

The popular saying “What you see is what you get” doesn’t begin to tell enough about a new organization. To understand the “real” organization you must go beyond just what you see. I call this detective work.

Think about it. Detectives enter the scene as strangers to facts that they must discover for themselves. For me, a good detective story is looking for clues and what they reveal. If the story were nothing more than the accounts of those the detective interviewed, I would quickly lose interest. What holds my interest is the detective’s ability to question, surmise, and enlarge on the initial information offered. The detective knows and I know that there is still much to learn in order to solve the mystery.

Of course, you may prefer not having to be the detective when you enter an organization that is unfamiliar to you. Mysteries are a good read, but who wants them at the workplace? I use the detective analogy, however, because much of what you need to know about a new organization you must discover for yourself. No one is going to do it for you. The clues are everywhere, but you have to put them together to understand the real organization. If you are on the move and want to get ahead, you don’t have a lifetime to learn. When I speak of the “real” organization, I am referring to how it operates, which you are not likely to find in official literature and briefings. How do you go about looking for it? It is not as obvious as you might think, but understanding the real organization

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