To Chase and Be Chased

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of working with a team that focused on chasing and being chased, and trying to limit the amount both team members have to do. In business, you rely on other people to provide you something so you can do your job, and others rely on you to provide something to somebody else so they can finish their job. Hence, chasing and being chased. Normally, the problem isn’t that we don’t want to give each other what is needed to be successful, rather, challenges come up when we have 5 things to do and a 6th is dropped on our plate. The chase begins when you have to ask someone else multiple times for something and when they have a different idea of prioritization that you do.

As a chaser, it helps me to remember why I get chased, how it feels, and what the chaser could have provided in order for me to meet their expectation. There are a few key pieces of information that seem to come up over and over. As someone chased, it is helpful when I understand a bit about the context, the timeline/urgency, and the expected level of effort. For instance, if someone tells me our boss’s boss needs information for a meeting with their boss that is scheduled in two hours, I then get the context and a little bit of the timeline. If they suggest I need to get the information back to them in 15 minutes, then I really get the timeline and a little bit of the expected level of effort. If they tell me to “give it your best guess” then I know the information I need to provide does not need to be exact, is not a commitment, and it is an estimation. Or, they believe I already have the authoritative information and my job is to keep up with that detail.

Given how I feel when I am chased, as I chase someone else I try and provide context, timeline, and level of effort/quality of information I need. I try to make the request using the communications tools they seem most comfortable with that also provides the best chance for them to meet my expectation. For instance, if I know someone has a smartphone and is an instant messaging (IM) person, I will IM them. If I know they are in a meeting and timelines allow, I email them and set and expectation for getting what I need from them. If I need them to provide me access to a server, I know that will require them to be in a place where they can access the server and give me access. I try to think about what they will need to meet my expectation and provide that information using the communications tool I believe will most likely result in them doing what I ask, in the timeframe I ask for, and to the expected level I need.

As someone being chased, I try to remember what it is like to chase someone and what I need to give them, what they need, when they need it, and to the level they expect. If I receive a random email asking me for something, I may send a reply email, or better yet, call the person to make sure I have enough information to provide what the chaser needs the first time. This saves both the chaser and myself a lot of time. If not, I may have a discussion that goes like this:

Chaser: “Andy, I need to know how many downloads there have been of XYZ”

Chased: “George, to give you what you need, I need to understand when you need it, how accurate does it needs to be and what it will be used for”

Chaser: “Andy, I need it for a report I am putting together and you don’t really need to know what it will be used for or who it is for”

Chased: “George, that information is confidential and I am responsible for making sure it isn’t shared publically. I also need to know whether you are looking for downloads…

Once things get adversarial, things get even worse. In this exchange the chaser and chased both lose a lot of time going back and forth, and delay between each exchange could easily be an hour. And we both would get very frustrated with the other. Some things to consider:

Do remember that almost everyone you meet in business wants to do their best, and do the right thing. They have good intentions and aim to do right, not to do you wrong.

Do think about the chaser or chased, and make it as easy as you can on them. It will help.

Do try to respond quickly with the information someone asks for. You’ll start getting the same treatment.

Do not reply to emails if you can speak to someone. In email, if things can be taken the wrong way, they will.

Do not take it personal. It's business. 

Andy Ruth 
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program