Question Everything

My boss questions everything.  Not in a bad way, like ‘Why did you do that?!?!’ or ‘What were you thinking!’  But in a good way – he asks questions because he wants to know why or how something works, not because he doesn’t trust or believe people.  Now, maybe he’s just inquisitive by nature, or maybe he’s just learned to leave nothing assumed over the years, or perhaps he’s just fascinated by my profound depth of understanding and eloquent speech on whatever the subject at hand might be.  I suspect it’s a little of each.  Well, the first two anyway. 

At any rate, I’ve learned over the years the value of asking questions.  And in turn, I’ve really come to appreciate the ‘art’ of the question.  Both in asking and in answering.  The questions he asks me have helped me be a better engineer.  Because I’ve learned to anticipate the questions he might ask about a particular part or situation, I know the questions I need to be asking of others in advance.  For example, I can apply this lesson to a supplier who wants to ask for a design change to a part:  Why is this needed? Is there a cost associated with the change? Will it affect our lead time or any agency listing?  On the flip side, I know the questions I need to ask a customer who wants to use one of our products in an application:  What’s your current air pressure? Why doesn’t the setup you have now work for you? How fast is your conveyor moving?

Now, when it comes to answering questions, let me say by appreciating the ‘art’ of answering them, I don’t mean doing a tap dance.  You know what I’m talking about.  You ask what you think is a straightforward question and get an answer that looks something like this:

I’m a firm believer in telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  But the art comes in explaining it in terms that make sense to the customer.  For example, if someone is trying to cool down a 700 degree F casting and wants to use a vortex tube to do it, we don’t just say ‘The heat load created by your casting exceeds the practical limitations of the cooling capacity of a vortex tube.’  Instead, you might hear a phrase like ‘Imagine trying to cool down a Jacuzzi using a single ice-cube.’  Such an analogy allows them to see in their mind’s eye the problem at hand.  We might then say something like ‘You can cool your coffee with your breath, right?’  and proceed to explain that a large amount of ambient temperature airflow is more effective at cooling something very hot than a small amount of cold airflow.

You’ve heard the saying ‘You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.’  That’s certainly true here at EXAIR, but don’t be surprised if we ask a few questions first to make sure we give you the answer you need.

Dan Preston

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