Before-we-start agreements

How to set up better working commitments
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It can be so easy to jump in to a task, a job, or project.

How­ev­er, this can cre­ate issues. Have you ever been far along in a project and real­ize you wish you could go back to the begin­ning and set up an agree­ment that would allow you to work bet­ter? Maybe you’re wish­ing you would have been paid ahead of time, bound­aries on your time, or more real­is­tic deliv­er­ables.

Whether you are a salaried employ­ee, free­lance con­trac­tor, or vol­un­teer com­mit­tee mem­ber, if we’re not care­ful, we can fall into sit­u­a­tions where expec­ta­tions are mis­aligned, balls are dropped, and peo­ple get frus­trat­ed . . . includ­ing you.

Here’s a potential solution... set up an agreement

Some­thing you can try is set­ting up a “before we start” agree­ment.

Step 1 — Pause your per­son­al work on the project. Before your jump head-first into your project, remem­ber to pause and clar­i­fy and agree first. If you’re already work­ing on the project, don’t wor­ry, it’s not too late. Pause now before you do any­thing else. This is bet­ter than wait­ing until the end!

Step 2 — Cre­ate your “front end” agree­ment. You can also call this your Front-loaded Agree­ment, Before-We-Start Agree­ment, Work­ing Expec­ta­tions Agree­ment, or Memo-of-Under­stand­ing (MOU). It’s impor­tant you cre­ate this in writ­ing and not just out loud. Hav­ing it dig­i­tal and eas­i­ly recall-able helps, too. It does­n’t have to be more than 1 typed page with plen­ty of mar­gins and white space. Here are some poten­tial sec­tions to out­line:

  • A short descrip­tion of the work to be pro­vid­ed
  • Bound­aries of time and ener­gy
  • Expec­ta­tion on deliv­ery date
  • Vari­ables that could change the deliv­ery date or oth­er con­di­tions
  • What this “does­n’t include” sec­tion (help­ful to keep the scope nar­row)

Step 3 — Share the agree­ment dig­i­tal­ly. Share a copy of your doc­u­ment with your boss or team dig­i­tal­ly and make sure every­one has enough time to process what’s been writ­ten. It’s impor­tant they have a copy on their end so they can refer back to it down the road.

Step 4 — Make the agree­ment and move for­ward. If you need to make adjust­ments, do so, then re-send it to every­one. Now that you have the clar­i­ty on the expec­ta­tions and deliv­er­ables, you and every­one else is now account­able. You’ve set up the bound­aries and your mind will actu­al­ly be able to relax and focus on the out­come.

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