Monday, April 30, 2012

When you ASSUME you make...

Well, It's been over a month since my last post. My apologies, a new job with new responsibilities can take up a lot of time. I will work out a new game plan for this blog and how to keep updating it, but until then I wanted to share an experience I had this weekend.

As many of my reader's know, I am a Toastmasters, and I think highly of the organization. This weekend I participated as Chief Judge for a Division Contest. Things went well once the event started. However, there were a couple of SNAFUS (Situation Normal All F@#$ Up) that could've been avoided.

The first problem was a lack of Communication among the officials of the contest. We had a Contest Chair (a very dedicated Toastmaster named Phil) and a chief judge. We also had a lot of participants. What we didn't have was communication. Nobody involved until the last 3 days really knew how many volunteers we had (or in some cases, how many were needed). We didn't talk about it. Instead it just hung there, because people "ASSUMED" things were getting done.

Now, I think most of us know what happens when you ASSUME something, but for those of you that don't:

"When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME."


Unfortunately this statement is generally more often true than false and it proved to be this weekend. 3 days before the event we realized we didn't have enough judges. Why, because the Contest Chair thought I was looking for judges and I thought he was. NO COMMUNICATION. So we scrambled to find people (and a special thanks to Rashid and Venkat for coming out to the contest and helping me!). We thought we found enough people, so this crisis was averted. 

The day of the contest, I arrive and Phil asks me if I have the judges paperwork, again I thought he was bringing it. Another scramble ensues. Phil leaves the library where the contest is going on (presumably to print the papers, I didn't realize he left because...) and I run to the computer stations in the library, get a visitor's card and print the paperwork there (thankfully Toastmasters International has all the contest paperwork available for download on their website). Just before the scheduled start of the contest, I have the paperwork and I start to work my way through the crowd. I bump into Rod, who is the division governor and he actually brought copies of the paperwork with him (well at least one of us was on the ball...). I go looking for my judges, who unfortunately haven't arrived. 

Fortunately, there are a lot of experienced Toastmasters in the room and everyone is willing to help. I wrangle up  a few volunteers who've been judges before and we are able to start the contest. 

Now, once the meeting started, things went well. I will say this, if there is one thing Toastmasters are good at, it is thinking on the fly (remind me to talk about Table Topics someday). But all of this could have been avoided if we followed just one item from C4: COMMUNICATE!

It was the lack of COMMUNICATION that nearly caused the contest to fail. Instead of setting clear guidelines and expectations, we all ASSUMED that the other person knew their job. Unfortunately, that will almost always get you in trouble. 

So, the next time you find yourself working on a project, event, task, whatever with your team, stop and look at your ASSUMPTIONS, then COMMUNICATE your expectations. If you don't all you are doing is guaranteeing the SNAFUs that will cause failure.