Careful what you wish for

There are valuable lessons in project and client management everywhere in life.  Here’s the Tale of the Soggy Sandwich:

Every morning on the way to my client’s office, I would stop at the cafe across the street and order the same thing:  a cappuccino and a breakfast sandwich.

Included with the sandwich was a plastic bag, plastic cutlery, and a little container of salsa.  Since these things just went straight to the landfill, all I needed was the sandwich.  I started changing my order:  No bag, no salsa or that stuff, please.

This normally led to a conversation to confirm that I, in fact, did not want any of these accoutrements.  I saw the extended conversation as a time waster and tried to be more straightforward:  Just the sandwich, please.

This still seemed to lead to a verbal confirmation about not requiring the other things.

More efficiency was needed!  One morning I tried:  Just grill it, nothing else.

Right?  The sandwich comes from the cooler, then was grilled for my pleasure.  By giving them instruction on what TO do, I could achieve my desired outcome, right?

It was pretty gross.  Turns out there’s a brief cycle in the microwave to remove the chill, then it’s grilled.  I had instructed them to skip that step

As I sat at my desk choking down my soggy-on-the-inside, toasty-on-the-outside sandwich, I reflected on how I brought this on myself.  By telling the sandwich preparation expert how to do their job, I displayed my lack of understanding of what their process was and demanded they skip steps that would ultimately lead to my cozy sandwich of satisfaction.

Take the time to communicate.  Ask for what you need and allow the expert to determine how to go about delivering this to you.

Often, clients come up with interesting, sometimes bizarre requests.  It’s our job as the expert to draw them out, to understand the base need behind the ask, rather than to blindly deliver exactly what they’ve asked for.

Conversely, if you’ve hired someone for their expertise, trust that you’ve chosen the right person and give them the freedom to do their job well.