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Having a problem with an employee? Hired someone to do some work and they aren’t quite creating what you expected?
It’s easy to point fingers in these moments. But, pause and take a step back. Perhaps you haven’t done your job describing exactly what is expected.
Though identifying and clarifying requirements is a full-time job for some, anyone that wants to offer up their best work benefits from building this skill. It takes practice, but can save time and money in the long run.
Episode 67 Show Notes
- Requirements Basics – https://pmbasics101.com/define-requirements-important-role-project-manager/
Episode 67 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark. Episode 67. Defining what’s required This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your guests? Hello, friends. These past few weeks I’ve had a lot of conversations and coaching experiences where I’ve seen a common theme, and I’ll probably talk about this on a few episodes because it’s very important to doing our best work. And it’s all about defining what’s required. Setting expectations, helping others get to creating what you want. A need had a conversation with a newly minted leader who was talking about an underperforming employees. And he shared all the things that the employee wasn’t doing. And that was part of the expectations of being a professional and being a professional in their organization. And so I said, Well, where is all this written down, like, Where have the expectations been written? You know, what’s the accountability? Do you follow up every week? What’s what’s The deal is like, Oh, no, this is just expected, Like you should know he’s been in the company a year and so it was clear that there’s a gap between the employee and his new boss that the boss thought should be totally clear. And yet there was nothing written down and nothing discussed up front. So there’s really no standard to measure against. I was also talking to an entrepreneur who said they had been working with a Web designer for months on end, and there still wasn’t a complete website. And he said that he wasn’t getting any questions back from the designer. So he assumed the designer knew what was needed. And finally the designer had another co worker or someone step in and start asking questions. They work together, and they came to resolution on a website that were I talked to another entrepreneur that was dealing with the same issue. They spent money to have someone build a website for them. The person said. Well, what do you want, like, what’s a good example of what you want? Where do you want me to go with this? What do you want me to dio and the entrepreneurs like? Well, you should tell me you’re the Web designer. So yet another example of not having clear expectations going on in that collaboration, I talked to yet another coach who’s expecting someone to tell them the exact tool to use for scheduling and managing their clients. You know, there’s hundreds of tools out there, but someone supposed to be able to immediately tell this coach which tool to use. So if you notice there’s a theme in these stories, there’s some expectations and requirements that are not clear on either side of the equation, actually, and there’s a high expectation of mind reading right for somehow supposed to read each other’s minds. And if you’re an expert, you’re supposed to understand exactly what to share with someone asking you to do something for you. I’ve experienced this many times over the years when you are a project manager, leading and coordinating team’s or managing business operations and systems as I was theirs, things that need to get done, and sometimes they need to be done in a certain way, and sometimes you just care about the outcome and you let people decide how to get there, and there’s a lot of space for confusion and overwhelm and finger pointing in that process, and it gets really interesting when you have people on different sides of an equation working for different organizations, right where you have some people working for a government or a corporation, and they’re contracting out to some other organization or person to do work for them. In these moments, there’s opportunities to interact and collaborate. But they’re also needs to be expectations and requirements created so that those collaborations move toward the outcome. That is expected, and when I have found over the years is a lot of people expect mind reading to occur and think that certain experts should just know certain things. And of course, there’s so much to be expert on that everybody can’t know everything. And even if they did know a lot, it might not apply to a specific situation. So how do we translate what we want to have done into a set of expectations or requirements for someone else to provide us back what we want? Well, this is something that takes time and experience practice to fine tune, and I don’t think that any of us ever fully master it. But I will tell you there some people that their full time job is requirements, gathering and clarifying, and it is definitely a skill set that all of us can use on a daily basis. So periodically I would do an activity that some people did not like doing. Surprisingly because it involved Legos. I’d bring a little bag of Legos for each person, and they had had the same Legos as each other. I throw in a couple extra ones just so there were more to build with. But along with these little Legos, there was a strip of paper that had some requirements listed on it. And they’re just be 45 requirements. And they were very simple. For purposes of this exercise, soldiers read four requirements. Right now, one must connect one blue block to a red door to one yellow block. Must be connected to one orange block. Three must be a free standing structure, which means standing by itself. 41 green block must connect toe one blue block. Very simple, right? And I already tested it out. It was possible to do this, and you can use whatever contract word you want. Must should thou shalt whatever Doesn’t matter. We got all spun up on the proper worded sometimes, but each person was supposed to take the Legos out of the bag and create something that matched those requirements. And 100% of the time, every single person who created something from those Legos had a different product. None of them ever looked the same, but they followed the requirements that were provided. Now the interesting thing about this exercise to me is that it showcases how, if we give directions, there’s often a lot of ways that they could be interpreted, and that’s the beauty of it, right? This is what shows that we can be creative with constraints that air given us. In fact, sometimes it opens up our mind two more possibilities because they’re like, Oh, I have to work within these parameters. But it also shows in this exercise that if you are giving requirements to someone to do something for you, if what comes back to you looks different than what’s in your mind, you have not adequately conveyed what you have a vision of to a person, especially if you give the assignment to multiple people. And it all comes back different than you thought and you get a chance to decide. Am I OK that I gave this number of requirements and I got back an assortment of solutions because you may want that assortment of solutions, you might want that creativity. You’re looking for new possibilities or to be innovative, right? But if you realize wait a second. I have a very specific outcome. Ah, very specific vision I’m going for And what you get back is not it. Before you jump to the conclusion that they have not performed the job, well, take another look at your requirements and try to step out of yourself for a minute and go. If I received this piece of paper, what would I come up with? And often we can point fingers right back at ourselves and go. You know what? I didn’t clarify it, and it’s a chance to draft up a picture for them or go out on the Internet and find other similar examples and to sit down and point out Hey, here are some examples. I want you to follow this one exactly. Or maybe here some examples. What I like are these elements that you see. But I don’t want this right. You can tell them what parts of you like what parts you don’t like and get very clear and specific. There’s another end to this equation, right? The perceived non performer. They may actually be a low performer. They may actually have inferior skill sets in this particular thing at this moment, but they may also not have been given clear requirements of what they should accomplish. And they show their expertise or experience level based upon the questions they asked back to the person making the request. So have you had that where you’ve given someone something to do, They say, Wait, hold on. I need to ask you a few more questions to clarify your request and to get more insights and to say, Do you really want this because this will impact this other thing and hear some tradeoffs you need to consider or hear some constraints. Or here’s how you’ll have to spend a lot of money maintaining it if we do it this very customized way. And so it’s also important for the person on the other end that’s supposed to do this work, to ask more questions to clarify, and those clarifications become part of updated requirements. So this goes for if you’re an employee getting expectations from a boss, if you’re a contractor creating a product for someone or designing a service either under the equation, it should require more self questioning or questioning the other person to make sure you’re very clear on what’s offered. And both people can end up bringing up the standard for each other on how you interact and on how you get work done. There’s so much time is wasted when we don’t clarify, these requirements are expectations up front. In fact, it takes extra time to clarify these upfronts. A lot of people say it’s a waste of time and let’s get to work. But the reality is, is any time you take up front to clarify, help save you time on the other end because you’re so much more clear on what you are trying to accomplish. And so this is just a reminder to remember that everyone is not a mind reader. You don’t want them to be because operating under the assumption that people don’t know your vision is probably the best, because then it forces you into a space Rego. How do I explain this to someone that doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and you can go through that process of taking a very complex thing and simplifying down and simplifying down. And in that process, you also clarify yourself what you really want and then be open for hearing from the other side. The questions and the inputs that come in and this entire process not only improves the products and services that are expected or the employee performance, it also can strengthen the relationship between those having these conversations and may even open the door for further opportunities to work together. So just some thoughts about Legos on requirements and finger pointing and mind reading. And I put together a short video to show you that I actually took these requirements and I created three little Lego structures myself just to show that they all met the requirements and they all were different and how wonderful that is that we have that space for creativity and our work encourage you to take a look at any directions you are providing this week and make sure they’re clearer and that you think through it before you provide it to someone that needs to help you do something and give a little grace to them because they just may not have the ability to read your mind. Talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it, I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. See you next Monday.