The “Request” Gap

When we begin our transformation analysis, we often observe “request gaps”.  Request gaps are defined as the time and work effort difference between what the senior executive thinks the request will take and the actual time and effort required to complete the request.  It may also include a difference between what was ‘envisioned’ and what is ultimately delivered. (See illustration.)

The “typical situation” is that a senior executive is thinking about a pressing problem or trying to make a decision on a particular issue.  During that thought process, he/she determines that they just need some data or ‘quick and dirty analysis’.  They phone up their ‘right hand person’ to explain what they need.

The Request Gap

It’s usually at this point where the gap begins to appear.  The executive thinks that they have been clear on what they want and when they need it.  The right hand person taking the instructions doesn’t want to look incompetent so they make some assumptions based on their experience.  The instructions are then past onto a third party or group of people to get the work done based on the instructions given from the second party.  The third party or group of people then make their own assumptions to get the work done.  They provide their best efforts to complete the work based on their understand and give it back to the person they got the request from.  That person then reviews the work and provides it back to the executive.  By this time, the executive is getting frustrated because he or she can’t understand why it has taken so long to get a ‘simple request’ completed.  When the executive receives the materials back, they get frustrated because it’s not what they wanted.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be taken to preventing this from occuring at all.

  • Be transparent with your expectations.  Quite often, the person making the request simply makes a command.  If it is a simple request such as make me a copy, nothing else is needed.  However, if there is a request for data or information from a company’s system, take the time to explain to the people involved with doing the work what you are trying to acheive.  They can usually help provide a different perspective on how to get the data and information much quicker.
  • Ensure everyone understands the number of steps required to complete the request.  Quite often, executives or leaders don’t truly comprehend the actual work activities required to complete the request.  Make sure there is clarity in the time and work effort required for completing the request.
  • Get it prioritized.  We all only have 24 hours in a day.  We do need time to eat, sleep, travel and take care of ‘waste disposal’.  Thus, we can all only do ‘so much’.  If there have been 15 other requests, make sure you get this one prioritized with all the other requests.
  • Build in ‘cross checks’.  While completing the work, ensure to send back a ‘prototype’ or ‘proof of concept’ to ensure that the end deliverable will match up with the original request.  Quite often I have seen requests taken days to complete and when they are sent back, the work is subsequently ‘junked’ because something changed due to oversite or new information.  This will also prevent ‘this is not what I asked for.”
  • Get sign off.  I usually call this the ‘accountability clause.’  Getting the confirmations in emails ensure that the person requesting the work is taking responsibility for approving the work.  It also prevents any ‘this is not what I agreed to’ comments.

These simple steps are ones our clients have put in with great success to mimize time waste and reduce work stress.  We are confident that you try them yourself, you’ll find similar results.

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