Why and how to define your tasks

Let me tell you a short personal story…

A few weeks ago my manager comes to me and tells me: “Hey Andi, one of the company we worked with (let’s call it T) will help us to create a cool “How to use our product” video. For FREE!

All I could say was: “Sweeeeeeeet!!!” (not really, but I did not question the offer a lot)

Excited by the idea of getting free professional help, I quickly jumped on board and created a doc with all the things we should include in the How To film. I talked about how our customers can set up the platform, how they can gather content, how they can analyze the results and so on. Being a proud product manager, I wanted to tell them everything about the cool features we built in and all the technical possibilities.

Soon after I finished my doc, we sent it to T for review and next day we had a short meeting to see if we are going in the right direction.

When the specialist dropped by and we started talking about the film, I realized I prepared for the wrong How To. This was not supposed to a movie that would explain the features of our product to our clients but instead a movie that would explain the benefits our clients would get if they would use our platform.

Now, I felt a bit … unprepared let’s say.

The good thing was that we had an early feedback session and I was able to rewrite the script over the weekend so on Monday morning the producer could take a look at it…

So this was the story.  Now let’s see how I could have prevented this…

Key Learning Point

This whole experience made me think once more about that famous quote from Abraham Lincoln: “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe”. He was so right.

  • Ask for all the details you need

Make sure you don’t jump on the task without getting a clear overview of all the things you need to do. They say “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups”. Stop assuming you are on the same page with everybody else. I can’t tell you how many times I thought this, only  to realize we were saying the same words but we were thinking about different things.  So ask!! It will save you time and embarrassment in the long run.

  • Write everything down and send it in an email

Not saying this was not my fault. Not saying it was entirely my fault either. But the thing is I can’t prove anything.

The next thing is to cover your back. Sounds weak but yeah, do it. When people don’t assume stuff, they forget stuff. And what happens then? They start making things up, things that you did not agree upon.

It’s easy to blame someone else if there is no proof. The truth will always be somewhere in the middle…

  • Reconfirm

Once you have the notes. Read them aloud or send them in an email and ask for confirmation. Ask: “Is this what we want? Do we all agree”.

Think about this 3-step process as sharpening the axe. Yes it might take a bit longer than anyone would like to but when you have a sharp blade you cut away much, much faster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>