My colleague Pat McGowan recently wrote about a family vacation. Her comments were about the value of a well-structured plan. My comments are about commuication, or lack thereof.
I, too, recently traveled to see family. We gathered in Colorado Springs to spend time with my son Andrew, prior to his deployment to Iraq. Since we were on his turf and since he would soon be deprived of his favorite foods and activities, we asked him to share his favorite places with us. We hiked in the beautiful Garden of the Gods, toured Fort Carson, and met many of his friends.
For Saturday night, Andrew suggested having dinner at his favorite microbrewery. He gave us the address and we agreed on meeting at 7:30. However, despite having the address and checking maps (our GPS had failed), we got lost. The brewery was on the outskirts of town, with poorly-marked roads. We could not find it. Three merchants in the area did not know of the brewery. It was not listed in the telephone book or directory assistance. This brewery was a well-kept secret indeed! And my son was not answering his telephone.
Finally, at 8:15, we found it. Turns out we had driven right by it earlier, but there was no sign for the brewery. The building was mostly dark and looked like a warehouse. This could not possibly be the place we were meeting for dinner. But it was. Upon entering, we found Andrew, wondering what had taken us so long. And we learned that dinner was not available after 8:00 PM.
Tired, hungry, and annoyed, I asked, “What kind of a microbrewery is this? No sign, no phone listing, no food? I thought it would be like the microbreweries in New Jersey.” Andrew replied, “It’s different in Colorado. This place does not cook food, but there is a mobile Tex-Mex food service here until 8 PM. They just left. You should have been here on time. The food was good!”
Very big sigh….
So what are the lessons learned? First, that even words that should be easy to interpret are open to misinterpretation. Clearly a microbrewery in Colorado can be very different than one in New Jersey. Second, that assumptions can lead to unrealistic expectations. I assumed food would be available after 8 PM on a Saturday night. Next time I will confirm my assumptions (or bring emergency rations).
I typically advise clients to clarify communications that are imprecise and thus easy to misinterpret, such as “The report is needed ASAP.” My microbrewery experience reinforces the fact that even the most obvious concepts can be open to misinterpretation.
We ultimately ate a late dinner at another restaurant. But Andrew was correct about the beer – it was fresh and tasty! Too bad Andrew will have to wait a whole year to taste it again!