Seagulling (verb): When someone comes into your work, craps all over it and flies away.
Picture the scene:
You’ve spent weeks pulling together stuff for your latest project. The midnight oil has been burned and it feels like many of the hurdles have been overcome. It’s getting close to the line and you’re buzzing about what you’ve done.
But then, in flies a seagull. Let’s call him Malcolm. Malcolm is generally a nice chap, a ‘heart in the right place’ sort of guy. However, Malcolm is a seagull. Empowered by the corporate spirit of openness and transparency, he can’t help swooping in for an unwelcome payload of seagull excrement. Also known as “feedback”.
“Yeah I like some of what you’ve done, but it’s miles away from what I was originally thinking – you need to start again”
Boom – just like that. No amount of careful jacket-sponging in the toilets is going to clean that off.
Now, mind you, Malcolm probably doesn’t even realise how unhelpful his seagulling is. Feedback is encouraged in the workplace, after all.
But here’s the hard truth:
It may be that you’re bringing seagulling onto yourself by not asking for your colleagues’ feedback earlier in the process. You shouldn’t get only a few steps from the finish line before it occurs to you to source opinions and ideas from your team.
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” It’s up to a great team to help you see aspects of a project in a light you could have never seen yourself. The end product is always better when it’s borne out of diversity of thought.
So, how can you avoid being seagulled? What seagull-repelling umbrella could have been erected to avoid the unsightly white splodges?
This is where we must delve into our Project Management Toolkit and pull out one of my favourite weapons – the RACI.
What’s a RACI then?
Nothing to do with red lacy under garments, RACI is an acronym that stands for:
Responsible – Who will do this task?
Accountable – Who’s head will roll if it all goes wrong?
Consulted – Who can help us understand the task better?
Informed – Who’s work depends on the task, or needs to be kept up-to-date?
It’s a document – generally a spreadsheet, that defines who gets to get involved and when. It is crucially agreed early-doors in your project lifecycle.
Like everything, this is best kept simple.
For your rows on the spreadsheet, list out all the Project Deliverables or Activities from your Project Plan (if you don’t have one, you’ve got bigger fish to fry!
For your columns, list out all the stakeholders for the project.
Now, simply add an R, A, C or I into each cell to define who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed regarding each deliverable or activity.
I personally prefer single point accountability – that is one letter only per cell – but this is not always practical. As a general rule, the ‘cleaner’ you can keep your RACI – the better.
Here is an example RACI from Smartsheet:
So back to our friend Malcolm the seagull, who you will now have added to one of the columns of your RACI.
By identifying Malcolm up-front in the project lifecycle, and keeping Malcolm in the loop at the right moments, there will be no dive-bombing, and a significantly reduced dry-cleaning bill. Malcolm will be a happy seagull who is confident that the Project Manager will consider his needs and wants.
And hey, let’s say you did already source feedback and Malcolm is just coming out of nowhere with comments that are just a little too late. You can absolve yourself of the guilt and frustration because you did your due diligence. Politely remind him of the notification you sent out three weeks ago asking for exactly this sort of direction, and then move on without his feedback, as that ship has sailed. In a scenario like this, it’s important to not come off defensive about receiving feedback (because it is absolutely something you should seek out); it’s merely just not the right time. Leaving Malcolm to go and seagull someone else.
And that is how to avoid getting segulled with a RACI umbrella.