Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Saying You'll "Underpromise and Overdeliver" is an Insult

C'mon, people are smarter than that cliche gives credit.

If a sales person agrees to set 10 appointments next week when she really expects to make 15, don't you think her sales manager will catch on after a week and simply raise the bar?

If a middle manager promises his direct reports 45 minutes for weekly catch-ups and regularly goes an hour or more, don't you think that after the second or third time the staffers will realize the gesture as an empty quantity over quality (depending on how the meetings go) or a terrible example of time management?

If a computer consultant claims to be able to fix a problem (that he's fixed before but not revealed to the client) in less than 3 hours when it actually takes 30 minutes because he wants to promote his "genius" reputation, guess what happens when the hype meets a problem that he doesn't have the answer to in his back pocket?

If an outside accountant promises that batch of 1099/W-2 forms by Friday and you say you need them by Thursday because of another deadline, the accountant should be able to deliver the forms without a long story of how he killed himself to get them to you on time. The martyr story just throws into question the accountant's lack of a system to process this routine request, or lack of project management skills to juggle multiple priorities.

I've heard all of these from client experiences or seen them first hand.

Here's my advice if you've ever done this or feel tempted to do so in the future: stop it.

It's not only insulting to "underpromise" when you know you can do better, but it's a distraction from the true mission of adding value to a business relationship and doing so erodes your authenticity. Focus on the higher priorities and the bigger picture.

That's my position, what's yours? Do you think underpromising and underdelivering is ever a good idea?

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