June 20, 2011

Context

I’m thinking about the importance of context.

Last month one of our Program Managers sent a client a list of minor issues that needed attention on a long-term project nearing its launch date. It was an email, written on-the-go, with not a lot of context for the list: the kind of thing that happens all the time in business. Not surprisingly, without all that context, the client became concerned that the app was not working, that it was more buggy than expected, and, sadly, that we had tried to hide something from them but now had to “fess up.”

The list was, in fact, minor stuff. Our engineers saw an opportunity to make the product even better while waiting for real M&S issues to come up and they took it. The PM, understanding that a key aspect of management is being a conduit of information between clients and engineers, was reporting the status of what was, in essence, polishing.

Without context, what started out as a demonstration of our commitment and partnership, became, for the client, evidence of mismanagement.