We don’t use the A-word

This was a mantra of mine when running product management teams and I would repeat it everytime they explained some problem by saying “Well, I assumed that they would do that….”. I would reply “We don’t use the A-word. We check.”. It drove them to distraction but they got the point. It was easier to check than to put up with my put down.

We all fall into this trap, though. It’s a combination of wishful thinking and laziness, and sometimes a bit of shyness. We don’t like to ask the obvious questions because we think the other person might be offended. We imagine they’ll indignantly retort “Of course I’ve done that!”, affronted that you have questioned their professionalism.

The problem is assuming that someone will do something is that just because it’s obvious to you, it may not be obvious to them. Just because you think it’s their responsibility doesn’t mean they see it that way. And, most importantly, just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s anywhere on their priority list. If you don’t check, then by the time it becomes apparent they haven’t done what you had assumed they would, you are up against a deadline with hardly anytime to find another solution. Which causes the project to slip. And makes me VERY unhappy.

Actually, people don’t get offended when you check. If you explain why, and say “I’m sure you’re probably onto this but I just want to be absolutely clear”, then they are happy to give you the status. They’ll actually be glad if there’s a different understanding because no-one wants to let others down, even if it’s unintentional.

I don’t use the A-word. I suggest you don’t either.


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