Setting the Right Expectations

I had a conversation a while back with a good old friend, Sonal, about how awesome Modern Family is and catching up with each other’s lives. It sparked a reason for me to share something that has been on my mind for quite some time, but could not figure out how to organize my thoughts. With a little discussion with her and some time to sound type out my thoughts, here is the breakdown:

  1. Learning when to say, “no”
  2. Learning how to say, “no”
  3. Learning how to get them to say, “no,” even before you do

Over the past six months, I’ve been learning a lot about setting the right expectations within the development team, with coworkers, and how it affects our customers.

The Dark Past

As discussed in my previous post, we weren’t (until recently) in a position to make decisions to have a positive impact in our daily development lives. We knew about the “fire-of-the-day” that we had to take care of while interrupting our current work and just had to buffer enough time to make sure we got things done in time and sacrificing quality. Readjusting the project plan, timelines, priorities, and resources wasn’t a part of our process.

Something had to change.

Saying, “NO”

1. Learning when to say, “no”

I can’t remember the exact moment I started saying no, but can remember an incident that kind of shocked a coworker who wanted something done. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to work on it, I just had way too many other things on my plate and over-promising would end up burning me out or under-delivering. I just kept it simple and said, “no.”

2. Learning how to say, “no”

Saying “no” is kind of rough and a little pessimistic, so I’ve learned to defer work. There was a request to fix the Partner listing because one of the descriptions is wrong. The application based the list on an Excel sheet I was provided, so the only way it could be wrong is if someone gave me wrong information to display. It wouldn’t take long, but it would interrupt my current stream of thought if I worked on it immediately. I put the request in a list for me to do later.

I really didn’t say no directly, but I did learn that I could say no for the moment and defer the work to do later. Rather than dropping everything to put out the fire, I just made sure we were all aware of the other issues at hand and I would get to it later.

3. Learning how to get them to say, “no,” even before you do

There are two ways I’ve been able to do this. First, is to get you to prove to upper management that your task is more important that what I have to work on. The second way is for me to just point to my Kanban board and ask where the trade off can most effectively ensure no interruption to a previously promised delivery.

Usually the fire-of-the-day task isn’t important enough to bother upper management with the question, so they’re happy with just creating a ticket, assigning to me, and holding the responsibility of bringing up the task at the next iteration meeting.

Now, most of the time, I’m approached not whether to decided if a task can be done, but instead if the ticket someone created makes enough sense for me to look at later on. That is ultimately amazing!

A Brighter Today

There has been a complete 180 from what we were earlier this year and today. Significant enough that people open to change and progressive ideas like Jason Fried‘s no-talk-Thursdays (our are Tuesday and Thursday 8am-11am) which makes our development team very productive which and in the end it helps keeps the Sales/Marketing team honest.

The best part about making sure everyone is on the same page is the positive impact on customers. It gives potential/current customers a good time frame for features/bugs to be delivered and our close partners a good time frame for future products not yet on the market.

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