Problem-Solving Success Tip: Know the Job Is Really Done
by Jeanne Sawyer
Know a job is really done by using completion criteria.
Define what successful completion of each task entails. Specify not only when the task is due, but also what standard must be met. You don't want to tell someone who has worked really hard to complete a task that they misunderstood and you wanted a sledge hammer rather than an ordinary hammer.
The need to have due dates associated with tasks is well understood, but it's still really hard to get a real commitment to a date. Meetings frequently end with a list of action items, each carefully associated with an owner, but with a mumble about setting due dates later. Given that most people who are assigned these tasks are extremely busy, and given human nature's procrastinating tendencies, "later" is quite likely to become "never." Be vigilant and persistent about setting due dates. Even if they're tentative and you have to change them later, get something down as soon as the task is identified. Then follow up to make sure the task gets completed, rescheduled, reassigned or, if appropriate, dropped. The key is to drop tasks on purpose rather than let them slip away unnoticed until the next crisis.
Establishing an agreed-to due date is a good start, but it's not sufficient. We need completion criteria that tells us when the task has been completed properly, i.e., what the quality requirement is. For example, suppose someone is assigned the task to design the reports you will use to track how effective your problem solution is. Is the task complete when the report designer says it is, or must the reports meet some other standard, such as answering a specific list of questions, enabling a decision to be made or being accepted by the project sponsor?
Using completion criteria can help avoid misunderstandings and delays.
Copyright 2007. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.
Jeanne Sawyer may be contacted at http://www.sawyerpartnership.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanne Sawyer is an author, consultant, trainer and coach who helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book,When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently. Find out about it, and get more free information on problem solving at her web site: http://www.sawyerpartnership.com/