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Monday, 2 February 2009

The problem of overdelivering

When I had my first official performance appraisal as an employee, I was already 29 years old! I had to go to the UK for me to work with people who engage in what is widely known as an appraisal review. I did not think much of it back then, I thought it was a waste of time. After all, how dared anyone criticised the quality of my work? After all, I am perfect!!!!!!
I always gave people what they asked me and in most jobs I held I would give them more than they asked me. During my consulting years, I would spend days and nights awake to make sure to meet that deadline without charging the extra time to the company and hence to the customer.
At my first official performance appraisal, I was in for a big surprise. There it was in bold letter, my first official negative criticism. I overdeliver. When I first read it, I thought it was a mistake. Of course there were about 10 strong points for me and 3 negative. The other two were behavioral characteristics, mainly related to stress. For many years though I could not understand whY the overdelivery was under the negative part. I thought that the guy - my manager - just had to write something down.

Eight years later, I understand why overdelivery is a major drawback. First, you don't get to bill the customer for extra work. Major problem in any business. It is like giving away things for free.
It is ok to lure the customer but for a paying project it definitely is not. Then, everything we give loses their true value. If for instance we pay 100 euros and we expect to have a two-person meal with one bottle of wine, and for 100 euros we get the meal, the wine but also the theater tickets, the next time we will have to pay for the theater, that will not go down quietly. Hence problems occur

Overdelivery also means when someone is giving away things the other one did not ask. At least not in the quantity - or quality - that they are given. Or the timing. Everybody wants to have clean running water off their tap. They want to be able to consume that water whenever they are thirsty. They don't want the water to run all the time off their tap.
If there is running water twenty four/seven, chances are the appartment at some point will flood. Not to mention a huge bill and a very bad environmental practice.

It took me many years to understand and realize why it was wrong, and why it is even worse to expect the other to deliver - let alone the over part - in relationships. It is like taking people for granted, them or their wishes.

Setting the frame straight in a human relationship is as important as keeping ourselves within the scope of comissioned work. In both cases people will have to know what to expect and we must not go beyond or below expectations because the balance will be lost. Once the balance is lost it will be very hard to restore.

For this reason I have found that it is important to have a 'contract' to establish the roles and the expectations in a relationship straight from the start. Unfortunately, I have failed to do that outside of a work setting, but I am trying. It is true that for one thing feelings are harder to control than deliverables, but expectations should not be that more different to manage than any contractual obligations if addressed explicitly and agreed by both parties.

Just a bit of food for thought.

Sometimes, less is so much more.

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