Do you know the context for the work you are doing?
How does it fit in the great scheme of things?
I am often amazed how little we appreciate how the projects we are doing fit with the business.
Example - Value of Outsourcing
An interesting personal example might help. I worked with CGI for several years after they bought Gellman, Hayward and they started to do outsourcing of IT departments. I thought at the time the motivation was to improve the functioning of the IT activity. Reading the book, Dealing With Darwin, gave me a completely new perspective. For a company to evolve, resources and capital are needed. If an organizations IT function is not core to how the company differentiates themselves, then becoming more productive in that area can be a source of resources and capital. An organization that can sell their IT equipment and operations to another company in exchange for a long term service agreement will create resources and capital to be invested in evolving their business. That concept really places a completely different spin on oursourcing. I, now, understand outsourcing in an entirely different way.
Example - Motive for Reorganizing
I often wondered why companies move to a decentralized organization and then after several years, move to a centralized model. I suspect that senior management want to shake up the status quo and get people to rethink things. Often organizations get so set in their ways that a rethinking is necessary. I often thought that it was a waste of time but maybe in the bigger context it makes sense.
What Abbreviations Mean
Another example, many organizations have abbreviations for many things. These abbrevaitions take on a life of their own and people forget what they mean. I found in the telecom business to understand the context of a project, I really had to look into the meaning of these short forms and abbreviations. Asking questions about these commonly used phrases can reveal some interesting things. Often the questions and the answers increase your understanding and perceptions of the project. I am shocked how little we know about the business.
How Does Your Work Fit
I encourage you to be curious about how your work fits into the company strategy. Maybe if you understood the issues driving your project, you may find even better ways to help.
Alone And Afraid In A World I Never Made
I do not think we understand the world we live in. During early 1900's people thought that science would be able to explain everything and there was a limited number of things left to learn. Then scientist discovered rerelativity and quantum mechanics that turned the scientific world on its ear. We now realize we know very little and much of what we know may be wrong.
However the engineering side of us all allows us to use many things we do not really understand. We use cyberspace without knowing really how it works. We use computers with only the vaguest idea how they work.
Thus we feel scared to ask questions about the context of a project because we are afraid we fall down a rabbit hole and end up in wonderland with Alice in a world that makes no sense. I think the lesson from Alice is do not be afraid, enjoy this world and explore. You will learn more than you ever imagined. You will understand more than you ever imagined you could. You will make a bigger contribution than you imagined.
Change and new things can be scary but they also can be exciting. The more we welcome uncertainty; the more we will learn.