November 11, 2020

Set Expectations

How many times have you run out of page writing a notice?   Or got halfway through a recipe before realising you were missing a vital ingredient?   Or partway through a task before realising that you simply don’t have time to complete it?

When you build a business that works through others you have to find a way of enabling them to work autonomously and responsibly.  I believe the best way to achieve that is to help people to manage themselves.

In this mini-series, I’m exploring how you can use some of the principles of Service Design to help you do that, using the principles outlined in this brilliant book by Lou Downe “Good Services” as my starting point.  Let me stress, this is not a re-hash of the book, but an exploration of how it fits with my ideas for turning a business into a system for makeing and keeping promises.   The book is well worth buying for yourself!

A service helps a user to do something.   You want your team to share and deliver your promise on your behalf.   So treat them as your users and build them services that help them to do that.

The third principle Lou gives is that ‘a service sets the expectations of the user’.

Setting expectations is about making sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen.   That’s why easy-to-follow recipes start with the oven temperature, prep time and cooking time, then the list of ingredients.   So you can be prepared before you start cooking.

It’s possible to do the same for services, whether they are for your clients or your team to use:

  • Give people an idea of how long it will take – it could even be a range: “30 minutes the first time you do it, 15 minutes once you’re experienced“.  Setting a time expectation doesn’t just help people prepare, it also helps them spot an exception when it’s happening: “If it takes longer than 10 minutes something isn’t right.”
  • Tell them what props they need to assemble before they start.  Include everything they will need, both physical and electronic.   This is an especially good idea where the activity involves assembling a collection before traveling off to deliver the service somewhere else.   A checklist really helps.   You can use the same list to assemble them again after completion.   Even surgeons ‘count out’ swabs, forceps and other bits and pieces.

If you build this into the definition of your service, you’ll save false starts, repeated steps and interruptions, and help everyone feel more in control.