Month: August 2013

When & How To Document Brief Conversations

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Documenting brief conversations may seem like unnecessary administrivia, but ask yourself this question; how is a brief conversation – especially one that results in an agreed-upon decision – any different than a meeting?  The number of versions about what was decided at a meeting can be calculated by adding the number of attendees + 1.  This is why meetings are documented with minutes that include decisions reached and action items assigned.  Brief conversations that result in a decision are no different.  Document such conversations by writing to the key stakeholder with other stakeholders cc’d.  Keep it simple and to the point, as in the example below:

Example: As we discussed, the end date for the current project will be moved from Friday, September 6th to Friday, September 27th to accommodate the additional three weeks required to address agreed-upon changes in scope.  Please note that this date change will also impact project Y, which depends on deliverables from our efforts.  I have cc’d John on this email to ensure he and his team are informed. 

This date change will be reflected in the next project status report, to be delivered this Friday.  Please let me know if there are any questions, corrections and additions.

The key components here are:

  • Clearly communicating the decision(s) made
  • Providing brief details as to why the decision was made
  • Including any pertinent details regarding how the decision will be communicated to others, carried out, etc.
  • Communicating any impacts to other projects, stakeholders, work, etc., as a result of the decision

Make sure to also set (or re-set) expectations with all stakeholders such that you avoid any unpleasant surprises.  Documenting one-off conversations is a simple way to ensure that all stakeholders are provided the information they need in order to do their jobs and to make their teams and the firm successful.

© 2013, Mark E. Calabrese

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Making Your Needs Known: Three Questions To Answer

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Your boss and your business partners get lots of requests.  How do you make sure that your requests get the visibility and action that is needed for you and your teams to be successful?  The key is simplicity – be brief and clear.  There are three key pieces of information that should be included in your email request:

  • What do you need?
  • When do you need it?
  • What will happen if you don’t get it?

What You Need: Keep it brief and clear.  Don’t provide a detailed history of the request, technical details, long horror stories, etc.  Do provide enough information so that the reader gets it on the first pass – be as clear as possible.  The desired response to your email is a “yes” and not a long thread with Q&A about the details, so take a moment and ask yourself if you are being clear.

When Do You Need It: This is your message to the world that you and your team are likely to fail unless your request is granted.  This is not necessarily a time to try and “game the system” by asking for something on Tuesday when you can wait until Friday.  Use your own judgment if my advice here will get you in trouble at your own company.  Another tip – don’t just give the day, but also give the date and (if relevant) the time.  Finally, it may be worth your time to explain why you need it when you need it.

What Will Happen If You Don’t Get It: This is the key part of your email.  Avoid the temptation to be dramatic.  Instead, be clear as to the operational and business implications of you not getting what you are requesting.  Keep in mind that yours will not be the only request crossing your boss’ desk, so framing the implications in a business or operational context will help her make the best decision for the business and will also help brand you as a leader who can think past his own silo.

Summary

Although you are clear about what you need and the implications of your not getting it, sometimes your boss is going to say ‘no’.  Therefore, make sure you have options either in your head or in your email.  This way you are less likely to paint your boss in a corner if she simply cannot honor your request at present.

A good leader doesn’t just surface problems.  He also offers options/solutions and a recommendation.  Help make both you and your boss successful by sharing your thought leadership and presenting her options if your request can’t be honored.  Don’t drown her with details.  Instead, keep it simple and focus on the business impact.

© 2013, Mark E. Calabrese