Assume nothing

Communication is king to ensuring a speedy and successful outcome to a task you have in front of you.

You will probably need the expertise of others to help you complete a portion of the task, and you can’t assume that they have the endgoal outside of their specialty in mind.

For example, I recently worked on helping Liberty Law bring their law practice into this decade, one part of which meant updating their computers, organising email addresses, overseeing the creation of a website, and getting them onto twitter. My task was to have them working comfortably with technology so their business was more effective and efficient, and one part of doing this meant I had to have their computers rebooted and cleaned up, so they processed faster.

As this is outside of my area of expertise, a third party was contracted, and they quickly had the computers rebooted. However, a day later I received a call from the lawyers that they couldn’t use their printers because they hadn’t been hooked back up to the network after the rebooting. This was my mistake as I hadn’t thought the consequences of rebooting the computers through properly and I had  assumed that the contractor would look after the entire process. I should have communicated better with him to identify these sorts of things that would need to be done after the initial rebooting, and made sure he knew that they were a part of his responsibilities.

On a different but related note, you should never assume that end users have the same level of technological know how as you do.

I’m no expert in technological things, I have probably an average understanding of technology compared to others in my generation. However, when I  started working with Liberty Law it quickly became apparent that I would have to learn to view technological processes from their level of understanding, which meant unlearning many things and starting from the beginning.

As an example, I had tried explaining over the phone to one of the lawyers how to copy hyperlinks and paste them into a new tab, with us both becoming frustrated and unable to communicate with each other, we agreed to do it in person at our next face-to-face meeting.

Watching the lawyer use her computer I realised that she didn’t know that it was possible to use more than one tab on a webpage, and had up until then been using only one tab, logging in and out of email accounts as she surfed the web. The cause of the break down in communication on the phone was a result of the fact that I had assumed a level of techo know-how from my client that wasn’t there.

Assume nothing. When you are contracted to do a job, or contracting to do a job, head into the meeting with a check list of things you need to validate so that you and the other party each understand each others point of view and knowledge of the situation. This will allow you to understand how to communicate with the other parties, and anticipate potential problems or issues that need attention.

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