There are not enough resources to complete the work in front of us for 2011 and beyond. Before Meaningful Use became “meaningful” we already had a full plate. We now have a buffet of plates that are overflowing and we are forced to bring a renewed sense of prioritization to the problem. We are challenged to deliver an elegant way to tell our customers “while that project/support request sounds great, we just do not have the resources to complete it in a timely manner”. No matter the governance structure, priority matrix, leadership or gadgets that allow you to prioritize your workload, the elegant “No” is a tool you better have in your tool belt ready to use. Without it an awkward “No” can create a long lasting tarnish between you and your customer that takes longer to correct than actually saying “Yes” to the original request.
Here are some of my suggestions in developing an elegant “No”:
– Your elegant “No”, no matter how eloquently stated, will only be received well after your customer has heard “Yes” many times before. An elegant “No” travels on a road paved with successive yeses.
– It should be definitive. A soft “No”, or a delayed “No” will just defer the inevitable conversation which wastes valuable time for everyone.
– It should be honest and transparent. You should give a considerate amount of time and thought to the request before lurching to an easy, yet awkward, “No”. If a customer knows that you put consideration and thought behind the request while giving them the real reason for the “No”, I have found that they are more willing to accept the answer.
– It should be consistent across your department, and not just the “No”, but the elegance of the “No”. Having one of your team deliver an awkward “No” generates inconsistent communication in your ranks – the customer will just move through your department to get a better answer, even if it is a more elegant “No”. This wastes time and frustrates everyone involved.
– It should NEVER be delivered by / through your governance structure. While it is important to leverage your governance structure for appropriate prioritization of work, hiding behind that structure to communicate a “No” is disastrous. Your governance structure will help you when the customer tries to go up the chain or around you, it shouldn’t be used to communicate for you. Go face to face with your “No” whenever possible.
– It should not stop the conversation with your customer. Realize that even with the most elegant “No” your customer may not be happy. Be prepared to funnel the request through another channel. If you are part of the solution, even if you or your team is not doing the work, then you are part of the solution, not just another road block.
May all of your “No’s” be elegant…..