Under Promise and Over Deliver

Turbo Encabulator

Is that all?

I have a 1-step lesson to make you a better engineer, a better employee, and even a better person. Yes- all three. This one simple and easy lesson will undoubtedly improve every interpersonal relationship in your life. What is the lesson? Well, I gave it away with the title.

STEP 1 of 1:

Under Promise and Over Deliver (UPOD). This means to be realistic or even overly conservative with what you promise to deliver, and then do your best to not only achieve what you said you would, but also produce more or sooner than you said you would.

As a good ‘for instance’:

My bossman wanted me to redesign a small product using a different manufacturing process to reduce front-end tooling expense. I knew it was probably a 3 or 4 day task, but to allow for unexpected problems, I told him it would take a week (also leaving time over the weekend for emergencies). This length of time was not great news to him, but he agreed.

Everything went smoothly with the design, so 3 days later the redesign was done and I already had manufacturing quotes. Bossman was very happy.

Avoid attempts to appease or impress customers/coworkers/superiors by promising a quick turn around. This is shortsighted. ‘Shooting low’ with your estimates will have 2 probable outcomes:

  • You achieve the estimate (good)
  • You overrun the estimate (bad)

Instead, if you UPOD, your 2 most probable outcomes are:

  • Achieve the estimate (good)
  • You deliver significantly better than the estimate (AWESOME)

As an example of what not to do:

Recently, I evaluated a new vendor by requesting a manufacturing quote for a new part. The part was for a time-insensitive project. The vendor salesman was very excited by my potential business and told me “I’ll have you that quote in 2 days”. I did not ask for the quote that fast; in fact I did not need the quote any sooner than a week. But if he wanted to show his interest in acquiring my business by getting back to me quickly- sure, I’d let him try.

4 days went by. I hadn’t heard from the salesman. I called him. He had an excuse: he got busy, and all of his quoting got pushed a few days. Well, now I am doubting this vendor’s ability and resolve to do what they promise. The entire business’s credibility suffered because their salesman over promised (unnecessarily fast quote) and under delivered (didn’t even call 2 days after deadline).

Almost comically, this same salesman did the exact same thing the very next week. I decided to not do business with that establishment at all. How much business did he loose for promising more than he could deliver?

Now, these 2 above examples relate to time. But UPOD applies to any estimated metric:

  • Need to guesstimate cost of a proposed design assembly? Double your highest estimate- make it impossible to go over that number.
  • How many good applicants will that $5,000 job board posting draw? If you only promise 1 good applicant; it will make 2 seem like a huge success.
  • Estimating performance gains for a material or component change? Promise half your calculated value, and probability is high that people will be happy with the results.

UPOD makes you a better husband

You should also UPOD in your non-professional life. I’ll test your reading comprehension with this next example:

The wife is making dinner, she wants to know when you will be done working in the garage. You need to finish sulfitting some hydrocoptic marsal vanes to the ambivasient lunar waneshafts in your turbo encabulator. That will probably take 45 minutes to an hour. What do you tell your wife?

(A) This will only take me 45 minutes… maybe an hour tops!
(B) I’ll be done in 2 hours baby. I love you, and your cooking is divine.
(C) I have to align this main delta winding into the panendermic semi-bolloid slots of the stator before I can replace the lunar waneshafts with its new hydrocoptic marsal vanes… etc
(D) I done told you once woman- ain’t no yellin’ at me in my own garage. Now grab me a PBR!

What is your answer?
Answer A: Not wise- what if you knock a non-reversable turmie pipe off alignment to the girdle spring and need an extra 20 minutes?
Answer B: Will get you the most bedroom favors.
Answer C: She doesn’t care.
Answer D: You are probably not married.

I’m not advocating you purposefully lie to people for selfish gain; the takeaway here is to be mindful of unexpected influences to your estimates, and don’t try to impress people by promising things you can’t deliver. Remember: promising McDonald’s but delivering Olive Garden is always better than the other way around.

Also, always make sure you identify your estimates as such. I don’t want anyone getting bad breath from using stinky Brown Numbers.

About Ed

This Engineering Dude is a contract Mechanical Engineer with 12 years experience in comprehensive electro-mechancial product design. His consumer and OEM products have been sold worldwide in the laboratory, medical, clinical, and research markets. He has also designed orthopedic rehabilitation hardware, firearms, pneumatic weapons, mountain bikes, and even furniture.
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