This piece of advice was in the form of four words – “Under Promise, Over Deliver”.
It essentially means if you think something will take five days, mention it will take ten days (the “under promise” part), and finish it in five days (the “over deliver” part). There are several reasons why this is useful.
Managing The Expectations
Let’s say you’ve been asked to do some work by your boss/client/colleague. They have asked you for an estimate on how long it will take you to do that work. Depending on the task, you may take a look at it, and let them know how long it would take you to do it. They would then expect to have the work they asked for done in the timeframe you mentioned. Seems like a pretty straight-forward principle, right?
Your boss/client/colleague may not know exactly how long a task should take, which is why they have asked you. The “under promise” part of this advice is to always specify a timeframe longer than you think it should take. If you are given a task that you think will take you two weeks to complete, you could tell them it will take you four weeks. They will then be expecting it in four weeks’ time.
The next part – the “over deliver” – is when you complete the task in less time than you mentioned. This could be two weeks (that you originally thought), it could be three weeks, it could even be one week. In any case, it’s less time than what you said it would take – which is what the boss/client/colleagues expectations were.
Of course, there are some limits – if someone asks you to print a document, it shouldn’t take a week to perform a five minute job! Deciding on time frames, estimates and quoting is something that does take a level of knowledge and experience.
Well, as you may already know, working in any job (not just IT) can have its distractions. Unexpected tasks come up, there may be a few different things that need to be looked at urgently, a colleague may have a few days off sick and you need to pick up their work. All this time, your boss, or whoever asked you for that original work, is expecting it in the same time.
If you allow more time to do the task that has been requested, and something else comes up, you are better placed to handle it. You may find that you can perform the task that was asked, as well as several other things that you weren’t anticipating. Setting priorities of tasks can really help, which you can learn more about in this article.
Don’t Ignore Quality
When you promise something will get done in a certain time, ensure it will get done before then, but also make sure the work is high quality. It’s all well and good to provide something early, but if you don’t ensure it’s of a high quality, then it defeats the purpose of this advice which is to impress others and gain trust. You may actually find that in the time you “added on” to the task, you can ensure that the product or work you provided is of a high quality and has more than what was asked for. Perhaps a rough quote for a system design has some suggestions on technologies or approaches that could be used. Perhaps a requirements document has been proofread, diagrams added in some areas, and is well written. It all contributes to the impression you give to others.
When you get something done in a shorter time frame, it can feel like everyone is a winner. The person who asked for it gets the work quicker than they expect. You are not rushed to perform the work, and have avoided any delays. The work that you performed is ideally of a high quality.