What to Do When Work You've Assigned Turns Out Half Baked

Jan 15, 2015
5 Min Read

If you’re a manager, you’ve probably known the frustrating feeling of assigning work, feeling confident that your employee understood the assignment and was equipped to do it, and then seeing the completed work and realizing that it doesn’t meet your expectations at all.

Often when this happens, it’s because of failures in two possible places: the original expectation-setting when you first delegated the project and/or the role you played (or didn’t play) as the work progressed. If you want to ensure that you and your team are aligned about what you’re looking for from their work, and ensure you don’t get unpleasant surprises once work is completed, these steps can make that happen.

  • Be more explicit about expectations at the very start. Have a detailed conversation with the staff member about what a successful outcome would look like, as well as any important details the person should know (such as prioritization, constraints they need to account for, available resources, examples similar to what you’re looking for, etc.).
  • If you’re not sure precisely what a successful outcome would look like, be transparent about that with your staff member that and brainstorm together. Or ask her to go away and think on it and come back to you with a proposal.
  • Before ending a discussion about an assignment, check to make sure you’re both on the same page by asking your staff member to summarize her understanding of the assignment, expected outcomes, and next steps. For complicated projects, you might also ask for a written plan to ensure that you’re both on the same page about how she will be moving forward.
  • Once the work is underway, be sure check in periodically. If you wait until the work is completed, you’ll lose the opportunity to give input or course-correct before it’s too late. Instead, touch base periodically as the work progresses, probe into the areas that you think are most likely to cause concern, and generally ensure that you have a solid feel for how the work is coming along.
  • When a project is large enough, ask to review a piece of work before the whole project is completed. For instance, you might ask to see a short segment of a document while it’s still in progress or a page from a new website design before the whole site is created.

Using the tactics above will ensure that you and your staff member are in agreement about what success will look like, and you’ll have a chance to catch any problems early on.

If you’re doing all this and the work still isn’t what you’re looking for, the issue might instead be one of performance and you might need to address it from that angle. But even then, doing the steps above will help you conclude that with more confidence, since you’ll know that you actively set the person up for success.

Managing projects? Learn how to set up and track your projects from request to success with Gordon Tredgold and Intuit QuickBase in this free webinar January 21.

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