Captain’s log, stardate 20190717
Sent by Jonathan Stark on July 18th, 2019
My 5yo daughter does this thing where she announces her current state to the room and then expects everyone to jump into action.
Daughter: “I’m hungry!”
Son: “Nice to meet you, Hungry. I’m Cooper.”
Daughter: “DAD! I’m hungry.”
Me: “Good to know.” (keeps scrolling phone)
Daughter: (aghast) “I need something to eat!”
Me: (looks up from phone) “What are you going to do about it?”
Daughter: (deploys dimples) “Please can you please get me a waffle please?”
Me: “OH! You want a waffle? SURE! I can help you with that!” (makes waffle)
The most important piece of this interactions is that I get her to articulate what would satisfy her desire. If I hadn’t done that, we would have spent the next 30 minutes like so:
Me: “How about grapes?”
Me “How about yogurt?”
Me: “How about strawberries?”
Her: “Uh uh.”
Me: “Peanut butter?”
…until I eventually guessed “waffle”.
Clients do a variation on this, especially in a sales interview. They’ll express a current state to the room and expect everyone on the other side of the table to automatically know what to do about it, as if they have ESP. For example:
In a situation like this, the temptation for folks like us is to jump into action by suggesting (or maybe even delivering!) a sequence of potential solutions that are ultimately rejected one after the other because of some unstated constraint.
e.g., How about this? No. Okay, maybe this? Uh uh. What about this? Nope.
This is a great way to create scope creep, blown budgets, disgruntled employees, and dissatisfied clients.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, my advice is to withhold assumptions, push past the simple declaration, and ask questions until you uncover a clearly defined future state that would satisfy the customer.
Otherwise, you’re just guessing.