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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Don’t Expect They’ll Guess

One of hundreds of similar stories. This particular one from company my wife works for. A guy was underperforming. Bosses decided to cut his bonus money. He got frustrated and his engagement fell flat on the face. Bosses thought he didn’t care at all.

An easy situation, right? No. Pretend for a moment the sentence “a guy was underperforming” don’t exist in previous paragraph and read it another time. The situation becomes completely different, isn’t it?

The tiny difference lies within telling the guy what it looks like in the eyes of manager. Telling him what he did wrong. Without that small step both parties can look at the same thing differently.

We often expect others will guess what we’re thinking, which is rarely true. As a consequence there are a lot of misunderstandings like in the case presented above. It’s hard to blame the employee he can’t recognize well whether he meets boss expectation or not.

There’s one simple technique which will allow you to avoid misunderstandings. Tell them. Tell them what your point is and be as clear as you can. Don’t expect they’ll guess. Be ready for a discussion however, since you don’t have exclusiveness for best judgment.

If bosses told the guy what they thought about his performance he’d at least understand why the rest of story happened.

in: communication, team management

2 comments… add one

  • Cornelius Fichtner, PMP October 4, 2008, 3:38 pm


    The lesson from this story translates extremely well into project management: You have to manage stakeholder expectations through proactive communication. If you don’t talk to your stakeholders they will assume. And they will assume wrong.

    No… let me rephrase that: And they will assume RIGHT.

    By this I mean because they are the customer who pays you, their assumptions will be the correct ones. Yours will be wrong. And all because you didn’t communicate.

    Cornelius Fichtner
    The Project Management Podcast

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 5, 2008, 9:57 am

    Actually the rule is general and it applies in many situations e.g. in our private lives. But you’re right – it’s worth stressing especially when it comes to communication with customers. We do so much additional work just because we expect our customers will guess how actually our software works. On the other side we’re guessing whether something is fine or not instead of asking.

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