In talking with potential clients of mine, I notice that some companies have already predetermined what needs to be done and sometimes even how.

The what question is broadly correct, but that does not mean that the core of the question has been found or the real cause of the problem is on the table.

It may be a bit like going to the doctor and explaining how the treatment should go. In other words, a self-diagnosis.

Because I always keep asking questions, the client and I quickly discover that the real problem is usually something else, something deeper. By addressing that first, we save unnecessary detours, consultation days and can work in a more focused way.

My tip is that you can do the same in your daily business.

How you work that?

Last week I had coffee with a client of mine who is CFO at an SME sheet metal company. Since our last project in 2019, his company has grown considerably and now has its own IT team with very smart people who can create beautiful things.

As a result, he now also receives requests from colleagues for projects to determine whether they should be budgeted for. But not every project seems to help on the bottom line. I was asked the question:

“So what do you say when a colleague comes to you completely convinced that this is THE problem? I don’t want to disappoint him, but sometimes I can’t commit to everything.”

I said I usually react this way:

“Yes, it could certainly be true, but would you mind if we analyze this first?”

Then you usually get a yes answer.

The trick is to dare to ask respectfully:

“You mentioned that [probleem] is important, what is the corollary to that being the case?”

“What would the impact be if we do nothing about it for 6 months?”

“What new opportunities does solving present for us?”


Only then do you talk about technology and approach, as well as cost. You document that on a few A4 sheets and to each month you assess it for the impact it can make.

The point is:

For example, self-diagnosis can be useful to know if you need to see a doctor. But once you’re there, isn’t it nice that the doctor checks to make sure your findings are correct?

The same is true in business contexts and IT projects: daring to ask questions about stated diagnoses leads to better problem definitions, which leads to better solutions.

Sure, sometimes you need extra hands for a project (not my thing), but even then, wouldn’t it make sense to first figure out if you really need these extra hands? Perhaps it could be automated, by a different route, or contribute nothing to the outcome.

PS: Do you also want to discover what the real problems and opportunities are in your business? Then schedule a no-obligation introductory meeting in. Both for metal companies and software makers.

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