Within an investigation, or even during a staff or departmental meeting, one telling scenario often revealing bigger issues stems from an inability to get what I call “crisp information.”  Far too often I have encountered situations where good information is difficult to get, or takes too long, or some specific question or issue is not readily explained.  Even more disconcerting is when the boss or “subject matter expert” of that function is the one surprised by the question.

I subscribe to the notion that business process owners know how things work, or they don’t.  Quite frankly, hearing “I’ll get back to you on that” is not very comforting.  In my experience, if you cannot get crisp answers, probe.  People either do not understand, or they are hiding something, and both of those are problems…be it related to a business process, a transaction, an accounting entry, a vendor, a customer…or whatever.  Finally, great staff people or great managers are also great teachers.  If your staff or management team cannot explain things crisply, it is costing you time, money, and effectiveness.  The best people who work for me, or the best way for me to deal with my stakeholders, is to exhibit operational knowledge, to know how things work, to anticipate questions and concerns.  “Hands-on” knowledge earns instant credibility, and if you cannot get it, especially on a recurring basis, it is time to make changes.

At the extreme, people who cannot provide ready explanations are hiding poor business practices, bad decisions, or potentially fraud.  So, you had better follow-up diligently.  Sooner or later, it comes back to you, and YOU lose effectiveness, credibility, reputation.  Worse yet, there’s bad things happening, and the first symptom was that lack of “crisp information.”