“Can you get this done?”
“Of course. Here you go.”
“Ok, this is mostly done but you left out this, this, and this.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize it.”
Whose fault is that? What happened?
Brené Brown uses the expression, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” Asking someone to get something done when we haven’t also communicated our definition of done is our mistake. It’s unclear. It‘s unkind.
Our definition of done includes variables, details, and expectations. If we lay them out clearly, not just inferring or implying or hoping or assuming “it’s just common sense,” we’ve dramatically improved our odds of success. If we don’t, we’ve dramatically improved our odds of frustration.
Blockbuster used to say, “Be Kind, Rewind.” If you never had this experience, people would return movies after stopping on the end credits. When the next person rented the tape, they’d have five extra minutes of simmering agitation as they waited to bring the tape back to the beginning. It’s the analog version of pressing play and waiting forever for a stream to buffer.
The answer to avoiding this frustration was to let people know what done looked like. When you’re done with the tape, rewind it to the beginning, because it sucks when you rent a video and you have to wait. So please, “be kind, rewind.”
Back to the initial example, instead of just saying “Can you get this done,” we can add, “and here is what done looks like.” Clear. Simple. Concise. When the definition of done is understood by everyone, the right job will get done the right way more often.
For every instruction we give out, if we want our definition of done met, we had better define it. We have to find our own version of “Be Kind, Rewind.” Because clear is kind.
* “Clear is kind” comes from Brené Brown’s book, “Dare to Lead.”