In the spirit of the holiday season, this is a series of short blog posts covering random things I have learned while doing Salesforce development, one for each day of Advent.

collaboration
How you ask about the root problem is just as important as getting to it

When I worked in the industry side, maintaining and implementing a company’s Salesforce instance, I would get a lot of requests directly from end users. They would generally be sales team members, or people in operations. Can you add this field? Can you add a picklist value? Things like that. When I first started my career, I would just do it. After all, it only took a few minutes and look at my turn around time! Quickly I learned that’s how nightmare orgs are created, so in attempt to think more long term I started first asking:

What are you trying to do?

I felt pretty good about this - let’s figure out the root of the problem so we can find a solution that genuinely solves it. But I’m starting to realize that this isn’t very helpful either. It made me too much of a gatekeeper, shutting down their idea that they probably genuinely believe is the right solution (and it may very well be so). A lot of end users would get frustrated, which would inevitably lead to conflict.

I’m starting to realize that the question “What are you trying to do?” is a little derisive, as if to say “You don’t know what you want - stop trying to unclog that toilet with a clothes hanger, use a plunger.”

Instead, I’ve started to ask:

“Can you give me more context?”

By doing that, I am deferring to them for their expertise in the situation. It puts me into more of a learning mindset as a oppose to a “poke holes in their solution” mindset. Because sometimes the plunger is missing and someone’s coming over and there’s no time to go to the store and all you’ve got are a ton of hangers so you figure you might as well try and this totally hasn’t happened to me before.

By asking for context, you come from a place of understanding their situation and it creates the opportunity to really collaborate on a solution.