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June 28, 2009




I am using that color Right. Now.


Let me ask you this: In your opinion, is Step "-1," prepare client for inevitability of boo-boos? I'm thinking about this issue lately. We do casually talk about things that have happened, hahaha we're all laughing together, and how we made it right in the past, but I'm wondering if we do it too little.

I mean, we may not enjoy that collision out in center field, but nobody's shocked that baseball is an imperfect game and stuff happens. Do you think a "stuff happens" conversation is an important part of preparing for inevitable errors?



David Sherwin

Hi Kelly--

Preparing clients for possible errors is critical on any large-scale project, especially if you have a big team or it's software-scale interactive work.

I usually fill out a risk assessment document with all the things that can potentially go wrong—even black-swan type problems, that have a very rare probability of happening—and talk it through with the client, teasing out any other contingencies that may exist. That way, if problems do come up, there's already a rough action plan in place to mitigate it.

If it's a really, really major error, no one expected it, and it's already happened, often both parties already know about it and the "it's coming" step is moot. Step "-1" would be you having a discussion with the client that's something like this...

Client: Did you know that [x] problem is happening? WTF happened?!?!?!

You: We're aware of [x] problem and we're looking into it right now. Within [x] hours/days we will have assessed the impact of the problem and will have an action plan in place that we can share with you. Until then, I'd like to ask for your patience—and we'll be working nonstop on your behalf until we have solution to your problem.

That way, they know to expect that in [x] amount of time, you'll respond.


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Hello. I'm David Sherwin, a design leader who's written books that help people become better problem solvers and design thinkers. I’m co-founder of Ask The Sherwins LLC with Mary Payner Sherwin, a training and consulting firm dedicated to supporting the growth and development of design-driven organizations and communities.

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