Sharing the Mess

I tried something new with a client the other day. I decided to share the "messy" part of database development, specifically the creation of workflows in Salesforce. Now, before you get excited, I'm not going to teach you how to create workflows, instead, I'll show you how sharing the mess is a radical idea that’s scary, yet exhilarating.

For those who work with Salesforce know, workflows are both powerful and confusing to the end user. Users often get caught up in trying to get it perfect the first time, which hardly ever works. They also often don't figure out what they want the workflow to do before they sit down to create it. Needless to say, I've always found my clients frustrated by their lack of knowledge.

So, instead of starting over, I decided to guide the process through the mess. Allow the mess to unfold, acknowledge the mess, and then figure out what to do to clear up the mess.

Before we began, I explained that I was going to share with them the process -- the good and the bad -- on how workflows get created. Together, we had documented what we wanted the workflow to accomplish, so that was taken care of before we began. Then, the big question, how to begin?

I let them decide how and what to start the process. The path they chose was the wrong one, but I didn't stop them. Not long into the process, they found their choice wouldn't work. With a little searching on Google, we discovered why, and with help from the documentation we began again—knowing more than we did the first time around.

By the end, we had a working workflow, which they continued to refine after our call.

Why am I sharing this? As a Sherpa, I want my clients to learn and engage in new ways. By sharing with them the mess that creating workflows can generate, their stress levels dropped and they were more willing to try new things, and, to use resources to discover where they have stumbled off the path.

As a consultant, allowing the mess to happen was a new -- and entirely scary -- experience. I was vulnerable to my own lack of knowledge and even worse, I wasn't "in control." For a control freak like me, this was the most difficult thing I have ever professionally done.

When I spoke with the client after this trek and asked them how things were going with workflows, they had already created an additional workflow and had refined the existing workflow. And, the best part was, they made mistakes and figured them out!

So, we often get caught up in being perfect for our clients, but sometimes it's good to share the mess with the client, because, you can't learn from perfection, but you'll always learn from a mess!