Why Not Ask Before You Start?
I have a new professor who teaches International courses with a focus on strategic management and HR. Last night, as I was preparing with my team to step in front of class to make our first presentation, the professor noted that he was wondering why we had not asked about the specific method in which we would be graded on our presentation. At that point, he pulled out forms for everyone in the class to fill out, and a very detailed form that included criteria he would be monitoring for us to complete. Yes… it was one of those “oh @#$! moments”. He noted that it must be the HR professor in him but he said that any time you start a new assignment, you should ask how you will be measured as being successful. The frustrating thing – I was just talking about this with a co-worker and offered her the same advice. I guess I should have taken some of my own advice….
So as I do when I make a mistake, I thought about how to avoid it again. Here is the points that I came up with as a “checklist” for the next time I start a new project.
1. Ask what the objective of the assignment is
It is easy for us to assume that we know the objective (often it is spelled out for us) but why not ask? There could be a complimentary objective that could also be satisfied. There may be a political objective that you should be aware of.
2. Ask about the timeline
Not only should you inquire about the ultimate timeline for completion but also if there is an expectation to hit a particular date for a defined milestone.
3. Ask about approach
This is one that I think many people neglect and will likely regret. It is a good idea to ask your boss if they have a vision for how they would approach the effort, or the format/style of the final deliverable. How many times have you turned something in to your boss (or professor in my case) only to hear “that’s nice but not quite what I had in mind”. Oops! I cannot speak for all bosses but I would not be offended if someone asked me if I had a vision for what that “XYZ report” should look like when they were done. This is especially true if the boss has done my job. They likely have been in your position to develop a “XYZ report” themselves and know what they felt was a good result. Better to ask up front then to find out later!
Three questions that will hopefully save me (and possibly you) that uncomfortable moment of finding out that you should have asked before finishing your project. What else should be asked before we start a new project? And yes… the presentation turned out great!