On Communicating Expectations

I love the suggestions I’ve gotten thus far–keep them coming! However, inspiration struck in the middle of the night, so you’re getting this one instead.

On Tuesday, I returned to work from the ILTA conference to discover that I had misplaced my staff. Or rather, that they had misplaced themselves. I stuck my head into the Help Desk office, only to discover that it had become a storage room. I turned around and located the office, only to discover that it only had one desk (and the corresponding one human) in it. I walked past the spare office, only to discover that the door was now labeled for the other Help Desk person. As you might imagine, I was relieved to discover that my name was still attached to my office, and my key still worked! (Although there was a huge cardboard box on my desk. Lame compared to my last firm, where they toilet papered my office post-conference, but we’ll work on that…)

I was somewhat shocked. After all, the promotions that would give the respective Help Desk folks their new offices haven’t come through yet. The two people working the Help Desk are now in different offices, and I was unsure that would be as effective as sitting six feet from each other.

However, this was exactly the final configuration that I had specified. And the only configuration I had discussed with everyone. Last week was slower than expected, so they executed what they knew to be the plan.

I had to sit down and figure out why I was shocked that they had executed the plan I had communicated. I realized that, while I had communicated the final plan to them, I had failed to communicate that I had expected it to be phased in differently. And that I had expected them to tell me a little more detail about the moves they were making.

They were executing 100% of what they knew to be the plan, and they were doing it faster than we had thought it could be done–there was nothing wrong with that. What was wrong was that I had failed to communicate how I expected them to execute the plan.

Lesson learned: geeks can’t read my mind. Also? My staff executes plans quite efficiently, when motivated. Next step: better define expectations.