We are all humans and tend to make mistakes. (Well, consistent and predictable mistakes will be an issue! :-). One of my Pet Peeves is watching Tasks or Action Items disappear into a Black Hole. I am sure we all have experienced (or caused) such an event some time or the other. I am no saint in this matter either. I too have had occasions, where I might have dropped the ball (atleast from other’s perspective).
Typical examples are as follows.
Date: Januray 4th, 2011
Person A, “Hey B, Is it possible for you to do task XYZ?”
Person B, “Sure. No problem!”
Person A, “When do you think you can complete it?”
Person B, “I should be done in 2 days”.
Person A, “Great! Please let me know once you are done”.
Date: January 20th, 2011
Person B, “Hi A. Welcome back from the trip. Hope your trip went fine”.
Person A, “Hi B, Sure. The trip went as planned. Thanks for asking. Are you done with XYZ? I did not hear anything on it”.
Person B, “Oh! Actually, I did not get a chance to complete it. There were riots in Brazil, Tsunami happened in Indonesia and Conservatives won the Elections in Australia”.
Person A (In his/her mind), “What??!!”
Date: January 4th, 2011
Location: An important meeting is going on.
Person A, “Okay, let me recap all the Action Items. B will do items X, Y and Z. B, can you track these items and make sure they are completed as per the agreed-to schedule, which is within a week?”
Person B, “Of course! No problem.”
Date: January 20th, 2011
Person B, “Hi A. I have completed the Action Items from the January 4th Meeting”.
Person A, “Great! Can I have the update?”.
Person B, “Sure! I will email you”.
Date: January 20th, 2011.
Person A gets Person B’s email.
Person A (After reviewing the email, in his/her mind): “I wonder what happened to Action Item Y? He updates only on X and Z”.
Well, the above two are simple scenarios and this can be played out in many different ways. In complex projects, with insane scehdules, and Engineers getting pulled in all directions, it is very understandable that there will be occasional mis-steps. Also, it can be argued that a Manager or Project Lead’s job is to monitor all the activities and ensure that they are proceeding well, I believe it will be beneficial from the Engineer’s own standpoint to minimize the risk of micro-managing from the Boss, which will happen if he/she loses confidence in the Engineer’s ability to keep his/her own promises most of the time.
The onus is on the word, “Occasional”.
The best solution is to diligently keep track of open Action Items, plan properly and update the status on time and conclusively. My boss has a lot of things to worry about and the last thing I want to saddle him with is worrying if I am keeping track of my own Action Items, which I myself have agreed to.
Sounds simple, aint it? 🙂