I am a big believer in providing clear expectations. In the project management realm a lot of time and energy is spent on ensuring that ample time is spent gathering requirements. In Agile user stories drive execution by having a clear format for the writing of them and clear expectations on the timeline for delivery.
I think these principles are really important not just at the big picture level when you are planning your projects or working in your teams, but they should be carried into all of your business processes. Asking for things clearly, explicitly and with the time frame desired attached is a critical component to actually getting things done how you want and when you want.
It seems simple, but…does it happen when someone on your team sends you an email with a document attached and the FYI as the only text in 30 thread email deep thread?
Know the Asks
Everytime I respond to an email I ask myself “Do I need this person to do anything?” If the answer is yes I scan the email and make sure I have highlighted the ask. Maybe I make it bold, maybe I pull it into bullets, but if I’m asking for something I make it easy to find.
Know when you need it
If I need something, then chances are I need it on some schedule. Even if that schedule is pretty relaxed I always try to put it in the ask. It can almost be more important if the time frame is less urgent, because you don’t to squander people’s efforts. This can be particularly important if you work in a high paced environment where the default timeline is ASAP this is important. Don’t be the person sending out a random ask on a Saturday afternoon because that’s when you thought of it and then have your team scrambling to get it in play over the weekend.
Of course if you do need it by a certain time…make that clear to…everybody benefits when action items have clear delivery timelines.
Drive Execution not Conversation
It is, or it should be, but I bet if you go back and look at your last five emails their is a lot of talk that isn’t driving action. This is actually one of the other reasons to re-read your email. If the email you just crafted isn’t answering a request for information, is it driving the execution of the business process. If it isn’t is it worth sending and is it worth the other person’s time to read? Great teams make the best use of email and other communications by keeping them brief, to the point and most importantly – meaningful.