Imagine: You have given a task to one of your team members – “John, Can you please complete this report by 5pm on Friday”. 5pm Friday rolls around and John delivers to you a 20-page report. Your face becomes downcast and frustration starts to build as you let John know in no uncertain terms that you were only expecting 2 or 3 pages. The report has to be done again! Rework! You are picturing $$$$ coming off your profit margin.

So what went wrong? Shouldn’t John have asked some clarifying questions to ensure he got it right? Should John be competent enough to do the job well? Sure. But communication is always two-way, and in this post we are focusing on what you can do as a manager to ensure your team members get it right first time.

Consider these three steps:

  • The task – consider how much complexity is involved. How much time should be spent on it? How long should it be?
  • The individual – what is the experience and competence of the person you are giving the task to? How motivated are they? The answers to these questions will help you figure out how much direction should be given.
  • Don’t tell – ask questions such as
    • What approach will you take with this task?
    • What information or what elements need to go into this report?
    • What do you think the final product will look like?

Questions generate great conversation, will help you understand your team member’s ability to perform the job, and ensure an alignment of expectations.

Additionally, asking good questions will help them learn. Keep in mind that the next time you ask someone to do a similar task, their skill level should improve, and you should not have to ask as many questions!

All this takes time I hear you say – “I don’t have time for this, people should be able to sort this out for themselves”.

Asking these questions and having this conversation may take an additional 15 minutes, but could save hours of rework! And less rework means more profit!


Is Rework a challenge for your team? Check out our Reduce Rework for Your Engineering Team video course.


Helping your team members get it right first time – Reducing Rework