Tick it or change it

7th January 2014

Here’s something that annoys everyone:

    Person A asks Person B to prepare a communication for them

    Person B creates it…
    …but Person A says they don’t like it and wants it re-done

And this frustrates everyone… Person A doesn’t have the communication she wants, so has to wait for it. Person B has wasted their time once and could be about to do so again.

And with the deadline becoming ever-nearer, things can get fractious. It’s usually around now that the Blame Game starts: “this isn’t very good”; “well, you should have briefed me better”… and so on.

Familiar, yes?

In fact, I find it weird it happens as often as it does. After all, Person B didn’t want to get it ‘wrong’ for Person A. And Person A didn’t want to offend Person B by saying “do it again” or “give it here – I’ll do it”.

But the state of play is: it hasn’t worked; the communication still isn’t done; both parties are now annoyed.

Here are some simple ways to reduce the chances of this happening next time…

#1: Better briefing

First of all, have a brilliant brief. Let’s face it “throw together a few slides on topic X” is going to lead to needless stress and re-works. So instead:

  • Agree the purpose of the communication and the key topics to cover
  • Ideally, agree what the titles will be, so both parties agree on the structure
  • Share expectations re logistics – format of notes, number of pages/slides, etc
  • Give any further guidance you can: examples of good communications to learn from/copy, useful people to ask…
  • …and so on

Admittedly, this takes a bit of time. But not much, to be honest. And it’s a lot quicker – and less stressful – than having to re-write the whole thing.

#2: In advance, diarise edit time

Unless you’re very lucky, even with the best brief, the first draft won’t be 100% perfect.

So, in advance, schedule time for amends. This is much easier than suddenly having to find time to edit in your diary when you weren’t expecting to.

#3: Tick it, or change it

The least helpful feedback Person A could give is a vague “this isn’t what I wanted. Do it again”.

This means “I gave you minimal guidance last time. So you guessed. It was wrong. So, let’s both learn nothing and use the same approach again. Now, have another guess”.

Instead, Person A should:

  • tick it – sign off the first draft; or
  • change it – make the edits themselves; or give crystal clear guidance on what needs to be done

A good way to give feedback on changes is to think big and small: “(big) Overall, I want this to be more audience-focused. (small) For example, the word “you” doesn’t appear until paragraph 4. So, I suggest you change the first two paragraphs by doing X, and then carry this approach throughout.

Here’s another big/small example…

Action point

(big) If this tip’s topic feels painfully familiar, change your approach so it’s less frustrating for everyone.

(small) For instance, if you’re starting a new communication today, do a clear brief (#1 above) and diarise edit time for later (#2).

And/or, if you’re reviewing someone else’s communication, give valuable feedback by remembering to ‘tick it or change it’.

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