How do you get people to do what they said they would do?

Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2012 by GTD Times Staff

People who are starting with GTD often ask how to handle delegation, especially when a “waiting for” from another person doesn’t get delivered as agreed. Here’s a question and answer with David Allen on this topic.

Question: I just finished the “Getting Things Done” book and I know the methods you have expressed will for sure help me! I was wondering if you can help answer one of my questions? For Actions, let’s say you have to delegate work to someone. If that person doesn’t do the work that they volunteer to, how do you act in a stress-free way which doesn’t decrease your productivity and efficiency as a person?

David’s answer: There’s no “system” that can answer your question. “Stress-free” emerges when you know you’ve made the decisions that you need to about something, and parked the results into a trusted system that will feed reminders and information back to you at the appropriate time and context. So you have to decide if there’s something that you need to do about the situation or not; and if so, what’s your next action? Then park that next action in the right place that you’ll deal with appropriately.

The main problem most people have with delegation is the lack of regular review, enough so that you will light a fire or check status early enough to be able to deal with the other person optimally. But you can’t make anyone do anything. You just have to deal with your own agreements with yourself about the situation.


3 Responses to “How do you get people to do what they said they would do?”

  1. Greedyzebra says:

    An important tool in the Love & Logic child discipline strategies that I’ve applied to my work is: The only person I can control is myself.

    So, applied here, my suggestion is to tell people what YOU will do based on their behavior.

    An example: I needed feedback from folks regarding whether or not some of their documents needed to be deleted from a network share. My first email (“Please let me know if there are documents we need to keep!”) was basically ignored. However, when I changed my approach (“I will be deleting any documents that I haven’t been told to keep by 5pm Friday”) I had responses from everyone within an hour or so and the project was complete.

    I would also point out how this approach helps others get things done. In my previous example, there were folks who didn’t mind that their documents were deleted. With the “I will be doing unless I hear otherwise by ” approach, there was no action required on their part to accomplish something.

    This approach works great with a boss who’s terrible at responding to email. He gets a lot and has mentioned he appreciates getting messages that require him to answer only when it’s necessary.

  2. Heather Ross says:

    I use OmniFocus and often assign a “due date” to an item that I’m waiting for. I’m notified on that due date and send and email or make a phone call to kindly remind them that I’m waiting on them for something. I then add a quick “sent follow-up email” or something like that in the Notes area of that action entry.

  3. Scott says:

    When I delegate, I also get an agreement on when the person will get back to me. I put this in my GTD system and follow up if the person doesn’t get back to me as agreed on. I keep comments in the notes area that include date and time of the action I took to stay on top of the task.

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