Nice one, Dave
It is strange how many issues come to one’s notice through conversations initiated around the coffee machine. Just the other day, I was getting myself a caffeine fix when Dave wandered by.
“How are you going, Dave?” I asked.
“Hmm good…. good,” he said, nodding absently. He’d looked a little abstracted lately – focusing on the reports he was doing for Finance, no doubt – or so I thought. Then he looked at me and said, “Those reports I’m doing – I still haven’t received all the requirements for them.”
I got a little alarmed; the first tranche of the reports were due next week. “Wasn’t Ralph supposed to get them to you a couple of weeks ago?” I asked.
“He hasn’t given me everything I need.”
“Have you reminded him?” An obvious question that had to be asked.
“Yes – several times.”
“And…what did he say?”
“He didn’t respond to my emails.”
Ah, Dave, Dave. You should know better than to send reminders through email and not follow-up.
Some background: As you may have gathered, Ralph’s in Finance and Dave’s in IT. Dave does a fair bit of reporting work for Finance, hence the work connection between the two. They also happen to be located in the same building – less than a minute’s stroll apart. Yet, I reckon most of the communication between them is via email. The only time they talk to each other, face-to-face, is at the occasional meeting.
Dave should have wandered over to Ralph’s office to have a chat. Although Dave had done the right thing (at least in letter, if not spirit) by sending Ralph reminders, he could have done much better. Email is a sub-optimal mode of communication because, among other things, emails can go “missing” (consider the familiar excuse: “Oh, I must have deleted it by mistake.”), or be misunderstood if the tone’s wrong or content incomplete. On the other hand, face-to-face conversations can’t be ignored, and any potential misunderstandings can be sorted on the spot. Further, they also enable one to listen to what’s not said, through observation of non-verbal signals or body language. So, the next time you start to type out that electronic missive, stop a minute and ask yourself, “Can I do this by conversation instead?” If so, do so.
In politically charged situations, where there’s a danger that a conversation may be denied or conveniently forgotten, one might consider sending a follow-up email that summarises the conversation and agreed actions. But in my experience that is rarely as useful as it’s made out to be.
Perhaps you’re wondering what happened about reports. Here’s the rest of the story. After some prompting Dave had a chat with Ralph and fixed up a time to discuss the reports. Dave got his missing requirements and a delivery date was agreed on. It looks as though the reports will be ready on time. What’s more, Dave tells me that he has been talking to Ralph a lot lately, showing him work in progress and getting useful feedback on it. Ralph has a good idea of what he’ll get in the end, and Dave has peace of mind knowing that his work is indeed on track. Even better, I’ve had some feedback from Ralph as well, commending Dave on his initiative and work.
Happy customers reflect well on the team. Nice one, Dave!