Posted by: LYF | March 2, 2010

Managing people’s expectations

Productive hours? What the heck does that mean? Do these hours include our learning curve (we’re juniors, remember)? Do they include the time when we had to go for a water break or just take a five – minute break? Do they include the travel time or the time we get stuck in traffic? Do they include the time we used up waiting for the client to finish his phone conversation so that we can start asking our questions?” – I want to be a CA

None of this matters.  Even thinking about it is a waste of time.  You’ll beat yourself up trying to find an answer that doesn’t exist.

When it comes to budgets and billable hours always under-promise and over-deliver.  Someone hands you a file?  Over-estimate how long it will take.  Get that person’s buy-in with a legitimate reason.  Say, “the earliest I can get this to you is Wednesday because I already have two files on the go.”  Then hand it in on Monday and look awesome.  Be aware of all the unexpected things that could push you over budget.  If you notice the client screwed up their loan amortization schedule tell your manager asap with the caution that, “this may put us over budget.”

This post is so seductive because it draws out two emotions every junior has.  The fear of under-performing and the anxiety of not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing.  Don’t waste your time by giving these feelings a soap box to stand on.  It’s near impossible to change how an office runs.  If you want change, either get some fuck-you money like Nassim Nicholas Taleb1 or seek self-employment2.

Until then, Manage people’s expectations.  Set the goal low, so your average becomes above-average.  Don’t expect to change the game.  Play within it.  And this can only be done once you have a thorough understanding of how a process works.  Once you get it, you don’t even have to explain why the process is stupid.  It does that all by itself.

You think this is ridiculous?  You mean “western diseases“, running shoes and seasonal mood disorders aren’t?  You can complain about all three or you can change your eating habits, buy a pair of vibrams and pop some vitamin d.  Do you think Masaharu Morimoto complains about the secret ingredient every night?  Fuck no!  He takes those sticky nato beans, sautees them in coke and fuses eastern and western culture, while hoisting his pan up in the air, grinning like George W. after getting pwned by a door.

Learn how the game is played and restructure it to your advantage.

1. Nassim doesn’t have to listen to his critics because it turns out he was right.

2. The self-employed get to make their own rules.

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