Allow me to take a contrarian approach to my contrarian approach about an IT project management / consulting technique called under promise and over deliver. If you read the first four parts to this blog, you’ll understand that my objection to the use of this technique is that it “fools” the clients into believing that you’ve actually delivered more than promised, and the client should therefore be delighted. However – and here’s the contrarian to the contrarian – I have had some fun with this technique, to the mutual enjoyment and benefit of both my company and the client organization. Take for example, a large software delivery project in which my company was engaged. The client team and my team had worked collaboratively, burning many long hours at the project site to complete a major milestone. My team was deserving of a huge celebration, and they voted for a night at the ballpark. Kick back, ballpark food, Triple A baseball – it doesn’t get any better than that.
I secured a suite above home plate. My team felt that our client staff had worked equally as hard as they had, and wanted them to celebrate with us. The project budget was not an issue; but the client organization’s rules would not allow its staff to be directly benefited by any vendor.
So we got creative. We invited the client staff to come to the night at the ballpark with us. We instructed them to purchase the least expensive entrance ticket ($3), and to make their way to our reserved section. Some were a little puzzled when required to take an elevator to our section, but were pleasantly surprised to find themselves in an air-conditioned suite. They could watch the game on indoor TV screens or from the outdoor viewing area, or just relax and socialize.
But then came time for food. An evening at the ballpark is not an evening at the ballpark without hamburgers, hotdogs, pretzels, nachos, soda, beer, wine … Under the rules of our engagement, we were not allowed to purchase the client’s meals. Ballpark rules did not allow the client staff to bring their own food into the suite. Problem solved. I informed the client Project Manager that we had ordered a lot of food, which would be wasted if his staff did not eat with us. I put up a sign “Beer and Wine – $1”. His staff were pleased to purchase their own beverages. (Of course that gave me a new challenge on how to put all of those $1 bills back into the corporate coffers, but I quickly solved that with a generous cash tip to our wait staff).
The under promise of a $3 night at the ballpark was met with an over delivery of air-conditioned comfort and all of the ballpark food and beverage one could imagine. The client staff, many of whom had never watched a game from a suite, were truly delighted. The relationship with my project staff was further cemented for the long road still ahead.
There are times to under promise and over deliver, but only for the mutual benefit of both parties.
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