Promise good, deliver great

I first heard the phrase “promise good, deliver great”
during one of the senior executive speeches at work. He was providing advice to
members of the organization’s graduate program and this was one of the things
that he believed had contributed to his success.

One of the key elements of building a reputation of
being a trustworthy and valuable team member or supplier is to deliver on your
promises. In order to do that, you will need to be able to accurately estimate
how long it will take you to complete specified tasks.

I recently learned about “planning fallacy”, which is
the “tendency for people and organizations to underestimate how long they will
need to complete a task, even when they have past experience of similar tasks
over-running”. I am surprised that it has taken me so long to discover this concept
as my initial estimates of task duration have often been too short.

The next time you tell your manager, customers or
stakeholders when you will deliver a piece of work, consider building a buffer
into your estimations to account for 1) planning fallacy and 2) unexpected
events that are outside your control. This technique will ensure that you are
not caught out by planning fallacy and will assist you to deliver against your
promises and ideally, exceed them.

Note: the topic of this blog article is “promise good, deliver great” not “under promise and over deliver”. In promising good, you won’t always be able to deliver great and that’s to be desired. If you continually “under promise and over deliver” your manager or customers will learn that you deliberately under promise (or manage expectations) and will expect you to always deliver ahead of your stated timeframes. This can be very costly to your reputation.