As things get underway, we can find ourselves caught off-guard. We can find ourselves surprised. We can find ourselves frustrated.
That’s because some things turn out to be less clear than they seemed at the beginning. Things start to get a bit murky. Or maybe downright muddy.
We find that important details were not discussed at the beginning.
We figure out that some things have been misinterpreted.
We realize that we didn’t point out something crucial.
We discover that we didn’t ask some important questions.
I’ve been down this path many times. It’s caused a few spills along my journeys. Those pitfalls can be painful, but they’re always instructive.
If we embrace the lessons, much of the confusion can be avoided.
The biggest lesson is to simply take a little extra time at the outset. To start smart.
As we’re deciding on a course of action—but before we embark on it—let’s make sure as many of the essentials are as clear as possible.
Let’s decide how we’re going to proceed. Let’s be clear on goals. Let’s be clear on parameters. Let’s be clear on definitions. Let’s be explicit.
Sometimes this can feel like we’re slowing things down unnecessarily. But that time is an investment. The payoff comes in the form of efficiency and focus and far less frustration, because we’re removing ambiguity.
In fact, it makes sense to also include some check-points in our plan. We can use those as a way to ensure that everyone stays on the same page. If all is going well, the check-point a quick reaffirmation. If things do need to be adjusted, we have a forum where things can be clarified.
It’s best to be in agreement about as much as possible up front. To make sure things are really clear even when they already seem to be pretty clear. To verify understanding. To validate parameters. To anticipate decisions and establish some guidelines.
Try it out for yourself.
Take a small project that you’re going to lead and dedicate some extra time to explicitly state its goals and objectives. Verify that everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities. Make sure everyone understands the guidelines.
State things out loud that you might be tempted to leave unspoken. What seems obvious to you may not be obvious to everyone. What seems obvious to others may not be obvious to you. Ferret that out with a little discussion.
State everything as explicitly as you can. Ask questions. Invite questions.
Start smart. Finish strong.