Under promise and over deliver

There is an old adage in marketing that states you should under promise and over deliver on a project. Clearly that’s better than over promising and then under delivering! But my question today is are those of us working in government perhaps under promising and over promising at the same time?

How we frame our deliverables, create deadlines and meet deadlines is just as important as the outcome. Maybe more important than the outcome. I know of another marketing principle which is to offer up a triangle of options but only be allowed to choose two of them:


If you want something to be GOOD and QUICK, then it won’t be CHEAP. If you want something QUICK and CHEAP, then it won’t be GOOD. If you want something GOOD and CHEAP, then it won’t be QUICK. I always felt this was pretty true to what happens but not true to what we promise. Sometimes, in spite of what we promise, people only hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.

Be real interested in hearing how you are coping with your challenges and managing expectations. Are you over or under or right on the mark?

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Marissa Levin

Hi Keith:

I think this question ultimately points to having a clear understanding of what you need versus what you want on a project deliverable. Often when a project starts out, the end-user (client) thinks they want or need one thing, but when they get into the execution, they realize they need someone different. Communication and an alignment of expectations is key to the success of any project. Sometimes, a commoditized requirement just needs to be cheap. But you are correct, in that it won’t be high quality. More often, the requirement is one of value. And then, the price (or investment) will be higher.

In my interview with USAID last month, in which we were profiled as their Small Business Success Story, I was asked to provide advice for other growing companies. I included the “under-promise/over-deliver” mantra as part of my advice. I have pasted it in below, along with the article link (http://www.informationexperts.com/OSDBU.pdf).

Any advice for companies like yours?
Align your capabilities to the vision and mission of your client. Lead with value and don’t expect entitlements because of your socio-economic status or business size. Stay true to your core competencies. Surround yourself with others that share your values and know more than you do. Publicly appreciate your employees every day. Don’t take anything for granted-not your customers, employees, or partners. Ultimately, the CEO’s position is to simultaneously lead and serve others.

Never over-promise or under-price to secure a win. Honesty and integrity will always lead to a customer relationship in which both parties prosper. There will always be individuals who want to undermine you or celebrate your failures. Take the high road where they are concerned and focus on positive outcomes.

Embrace the challenges for they often provide wonderful teachable moments. This is when we learn and grow the most.

Bridges are for building, not for burning. You never know when you will be working with people from your past, so always be respectful, dignified, and professional. Paths cross when and where we least expect them.

Remember to enjoy the journey and acknowledge your daily successes. Give back and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Laugh every day.

Keith McDonald

Hi Marissa – here here … nicely said!

If you haven’t seen the YouTube video about making a STOP sign it speaks quite loudly I’m not sure I can embed it here so I will try that and add the link as well:

jana gallatin

I generally bring up the term “managing expectations” in the first conversation with a customer. And I am sometimes blunt, so they understand what I will and will not do.
Even then, there are always customers that are going to be difficult.
Trends: When customers are unreasonable http://bit.ly/Nrp0S