Thursday, December 05, 2002

On Making Clear Requests

As promised, I'm writing about the experience of readers of this web log on making clear, not vague, requests. I asked readers on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to try to make two clear requests. and then email me with observations.

I received no responses!! So, let me make observations on this! (you expected I would remain silent??!!)

In short, the nonresponse illustrates the principles of a clear request

  • A clear request has to be made to someone.I did not ask, directly, anyone. It was a general request. Thus, it was easy to avoid.
  • A clear request has to be heard. It turns out that the service which sends daily updates from this web log to subscribers has had problems this week. Thus, subscribers, expecting to see something in their email box when I add new entried, never saw the request. Only those who bookmark this site and check it via the Web saw the request.
  • The Web is anonymous.Let's not kid ourselves...while email and the web are fantastic technologies, they are very much removed from face-to-face interaction. Thus, it was very easy, perhaps expected, that a non-specific, web-only request would be avoided.

So, all of this makes the point even more strongly. A clear request must be direct: "Martha, can you please try this method this morning and let me know by noon what you observe?" It is best, face to face...I can see if Martha is uncomfortable or bothered by the request...which will let me renegotiate.

Any lean system, any effort to eliminate waste, will be full of hundreds of such interactions. Make them clear. Make them personal. Make them sensitive and full of listening.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend.
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