It's why we don't answer our land lines anymore. Why we don't really approach our letterboxes with the thrill that we did as a child - because we know that the only thing in there will be political junk or a bill.
Financial year-end is upon us. Which means we'll get the dreaded phone calls from Finance, A/P and the actuaries about estimates, invoices and trends. Blech. To be fair, it's a really hard time for them and they do their best. I spend a lot of time with Finance teams and auditors helping them make the experience better for them and their stakeholders (i.e. you), but a business relationship is a 2-way street, so I think you can help the cause for both of you.
It's quite simple - start with asking yourself the following question: 'What did they ask for last year?'
Now, my guess is that they asked for one thing, but it very quickly turned into a request for 5 other things. And...possibly they asked for it at the last minute, so it's was a mad rush to get everything for them. Gosh, don't they realise you have your own job to do? My intent here is not to Finance-shame. I am very endeared to them, and I want to share this insight with you to help make this better for everyone.
The solution: pick up the phone and call them. Here is a script you can follow: 'Hi [insert name], year-end is going to be upon us before we know it. I remember last year you asked for [insert item/memo/report, etc]. Will you need it this year?' They'll say: 'Uh...yes, probably. We haven't done detailed planning yet, but we'll be doing it soon. Can I get back to you?' And you say: 'Yes, of course. Can I suggest we put 30 minutes in our diaries on May 15 so we can sit down, you can describe exactly what you need from us, when you need it and for what purpose. That way I can make sure that my team get the right thing for you in the timeframes you need. Does that sound ok?' They say: 'Yes, that's a great idea.'
Boom. What you've done there is put yourself in the driver's seat. You've committed them to a timeframe that gives you enough time to get what they need in their timeframe. No last minute dash, no crankiness, no collateral damage.
Final step: put the meeting in the diary with the following note: 'Hi [insert name], As discussed, this is time for us to discuss your requirements of me and my team for year-end. Specifically, we will talk through:
• What you need (document)
• When you need it (deadline)
• The purpose for which you need it (context)
• Anything else that is relevant (dependencies)
If anyone else in your team needs to be a part of the conversation, please feel free to forward this invite. I look forward to talking with you. Cheers, [insert your name] Done. Now you're ready to answer door!
P.S. I know you may be thinking, 'this isn't my responsibility'. But...if you know that this is coming, why don't you take the front foot and make it work for you? P.P.S. I've used financial year-end as the case study here, but where else can you apply this approach?