Show don't tell

This morning I needed to take one of my bunnies to the vet. She'd been at the vet's the night before and they'd administered pain relief and other medications but because no one was going to be at the surgery overnight, they sent her home with me with instructions to return first thing in the morning.

I've been really worried about her for about a week and now realise I should have taken her to the vet earlier. Because she's been unwell I've been feeling worried and guilty and not sleeping very well; getting up in the middle of the night to check on her, continuously stealing myself against find her lifeless body and then breathing a relieved sigh when I see her nibbling on hay or drinking water or grooming herself.

Getting ready this morning the plan was to have everything done so when I popped her into the carry-box, we'd go straight into the car and to the vet so she'd spend the minimum amount of time necessary in the box. All was going to plan until I went downstairs to my car and found the back driver's side wheel was flat. 

Of all days! Plus my brand new tyre!

Show me the tyre!

I have never owned a car where the spare wheel is wound up underneath the car, so had to get out my owner's manual to figure out how to change the tyre on the Mini. It took a bit of doing matching the instructions and drawings because the gadget that supposed to be with the car to get the wheel down wasn't there. After improvising and finding something in the garage that might do the trick the next realisation was that I didn't, in fact, have a spare tyre. 

When I'd bought the car last year, I had specifically asked the dealer if it had a spare tyre. He said it did, underneath the car. I thanked him for letting me know but I didn't have him show me because I thought it had been a silly question in the first place. Now it didn't seem so silly as I was cranking and unbolting in the hot morning sun with a sick rabbit in a box not quite knowing how I was going to get the tyre fixed or the rabbit to hospital or make my 11am meeting or get anything else done today.

Show me the email!

Eventually getting to work, I'd rescheduled a meeting about a project that's going on far too long and missed so many deadlines it's not even funny. Before Christmas it was due to go into production and we were looking forward to the New Year to be able to finally use this tool we'd commissioned for our Content Management System (CMS).

The project was for a content picker - a small piece of software for the CMS to pick content from the site and load into an newsletter email. The meeting this morning was about how, now the software is in the production environment being testing before being released into the CMS, it's not working as expected.

I was briefed at the meeting that the software works to pick the content, but when the newsletter email is sent, Microsoft Outlook strips of all HTML upon delivery. To clarify I asked if that meant the email arrived with just one big continuous string of text without any formatting to which the Project Manager said "Yes. That's right."

Sounded pretty dire so late in the project. 

As an example, the Project Manager picked the content and sent a test email, which duly arrived into his inbox. Upon opening the email, I could see that some of the formatting was missing, but it was far from the blob of text he'd said would happen. 

I'm so glad he showed me what he meant and I didn't just rely on what he said, otherwise I would have thought the problem much larger than it turned out to be. Each question I had asked shed more light on the situation so I had a much better set of facts compared to just accepting his initial brief of the situation.

I also learned that if I hadn't felt my question about the tyre was silly and had had the car dealer show me the spare tyre when I purchased the car, I might have saved several hours of time this morning changing my flat.

Show me the lessons

  • Keep asking questions; use questions to drill for clarity.
  • Ask to be shown an example or evidence to back up claims and promises.
  • Just because someone speaks the same language as you do, doesn't mean they use words with as much care.
  • Listen, pay attention, and understand because one day you're going run over a nail and then you're going to be so glad you asked "Can you show me?"