Friday, August 7, 2009

Say what you'll do, do what you say...

I've been noticing something new lately. I schedule a meeting and everyone confirms it, then about 30 minutes before the meeting several people come up to me in person or by phone to confirm that we are still having the meeting.


Am I that distrustful or unpredictable? Is there a history of you showing up for meetings and them not occurring?

I'm confused by this... but then I got to thinking about it more. I realized that I've had friends or family do it also with gatherings. This behavior has risen in the last few years. What I don't know is if it has anything to do with our constant micro-distractions with technology, or a decrease in respect for each other.

Don't get me wrong, it bother me that people waste my time to verify that I won't be wasting theirs... but what I'm really concerned about here is that people do this to protect themselves against something that must happen to them all the time. This something is hugely disrespectful. It's the act of not following through.

I was raised in a community and culture where you stated what you were going to do, then you did it. If for some reason you couldn't, you had better set expectations in advance as soon as you could. If you didn't, you paid the price by harming that relationship. You didn't deserve to receive mutual agreements from that person in the future after that mistake.

Agile is about this. Standups inspire this. Reviews demand this. Planning and Velocity requires it. WIP limits assume it (I've seen managers bypassing WIP on the sly!). Retrospectives if run properly will inspire it also. Without it, everything starts to fall apart.

So people: say what you'll do, and do what you say. Follow through. Get to DONE! And don't limit this to your work, but include it in your relationships with other people.

Think about how much time we can save not second guessing stuff anymore!


  1. Sometimes, when people do that, it turns out they are hoping for the convener of the meeting to seem somewhat doubtful about it because they don't really want to (or don't feel they really can) be there. They may have so many obligations that they want to test them to be sure they are really going to happen.

    So I think it is not a sign of distrust about you but a sign of people's stress and suspicion that not all obligations really are necessary. Looking back to you is a way to not seem like they are rejecting the "responsibility" as they confirm the reality of the obligation.

    I agree that an agile approach should make this sort of behavior unnecessary. Of course, it should also make a lot of the meetings and obligations unnecessary as well.

  2. Thanks for the comments Scott, it makes me feel a little better.

    I'm all about transparency! If people are overworked or don't feel invested, it would help if they shared that. I could work with that to improve the situation!

  3. "as they confirm the reality of the obligation"
    Very eloquently put Scott, don't mind me quoting you every now and then ;)

    I love, by the way, how both of you make complete sense to me, and how both points seem to have value. Let me add to that mix with another observation; the seemingly growing need for people to communicate what they are doing, when and how. I noticed some that took that to such heights that its almost an artform, working with those almost make you feel guilty about NOT mentioning it is, indeed, your second coffee and you might just be going for a third. Using the stairs.
    Not that you being away has any significance to the job at hand, and there isn't even a jugement of value there, no, that is on the fact that you left out to communicate this (or weren't planning to communicate).

    People like me, who assume a certain amount of personal responsability, don't really play well with these kind of people. For most of the reasons Kevin mentioned, with an emphasis on the time involved in these sound-byte communications. But mostly because frankly, I Don't Care. The meeting is at 10, before then someone's very existence doesn't concern me if it doesn't directly invloves the job at hand. It shouldn't. THat person should be working on his or her part and I should be completely confident this is true.

    This might sound a tad harsh but that's just because I'm a grumpy old man :D

    The point I'm trying to make is actually:
    Some are compelled to confirm the reality of their obligations

    coupled to
    Some feel they need to constanly communicate thier intent

    adds up to
    Other people perceiving this as a lack of trust and/or trustworthyness (because it is just our perception, right?)

    I think with this in mind it sholdn't be hard to find a satisfying way to communicate with these people. By, for instance, auto confirming each meeting you have with them (or anyone for that matter) when you do your mail in the morning. Then the initiatif is yours and you get extra browny points for being able to communicate on their level. I would think very few would bother you afterwards.

    Oh.. this grew a little out of hand.. Oops :)

  4. "Grumpy old men" always have good points due to their long experience! ;) Thanks Patrick.