Say and Do: Partners In Success!

People hear what we say and watch what we do…


Among the things that people appreciate–whether you’re in professional services, in a corporate organization, or just living life–are consistency and reliability. What you “say” and what you “do” ought to be congruous. Your “say-do” reputation may be the most important reputation you can build.

Anyone who’s been in a leadership position or who has engaged service providers who have inconsistent say-do practices can appreciate this post. If I tell you that I will deliver a product on Thursday at 3 PM and then don’t tell you until the following Monday that the product will be late, you are going to be disappointed. And most people who deliver product understand this–any operator you ask will talk to you about on-time delivery and production schedules.

The issue, however, arises when we talk about services, general delivery, and interpersonal circumstances.

Let me tell you about an example:

I recently had a repair person come to my house to look at an appliance. The appliance required a small part that the repair person committed to ordering and that I was told, on requesting a timeline, would be here within two weeks. The repair person has responded to exactly one request in six weeks, and I am standing here confounded.

This is a true story that is happening right now.

What would you do? I suspect that most of you would say “Fire the repair man!,” and I completely agree. In this case, the appliance in question is not all that important, and I’ve let the timeline run out as a sort of experiment: Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed.

So, when we think about delivering service, whether to out clients, our bosses, or even our spouses and families, what we say and what we do must be aligned. Say-do practices are sacrosanct, but that doesn’t mean that every deadline is immovable.

I’ll give you three examples of delivery via management of say-do.

  • Example 1 is straightforward: I tell you I’m going to deliver and I do it, on scope and as stated.
  • Example 2 is more complicated: I tell you I’m going to deliver, and then I manage timing in order to do so fully. So, I deliver on time–against new time, or on revised time–and otherwise on scope and on quality.
  • Example 3 is even more complex, and generally arises when circumstances of delivery are so ambiguous that quality can’t be guaranteed: Imagine a project that requires market knowledge via primary interviews that may or may not be extremely valuable. In this case, I may revise timing in order to get to the required quality, I may revise scope or quality expectations in order to ensure that expectations are met, or I may just decide the deliverable isn’t worth delivering at all.

Each of these three scenarios has something in common: communication and consistency of commitment and delivery.

The scenario that you don’t see is the one that involves late delivery of a substandard product with no communication. That, my friends, is breaking the say-do rule. No one–not your kids, your clients, your customers, or your boss–wants to hear excuses after the fact.

I would enjoy your comments on this topic. Please feel free to engage below.

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