Communicate to avoid “filling in the gaps”

One of the most important aspects of any technology project is managing expectations. For example, when implementing a new AMS, we need to manage the expectations of both staff and members in terms of what the new system will and will not do.

The key to expectations management, of course, is clear and consistent communication.

No communication will be perfect, of course. But what we're hoping to avoid is allowing the audience to "fill in the gaps" when things aren't clear.

When we don't provide complete information about the project, it is human nature for people to fill in the gaps where information is missing. For example, a client of mine pointed out that her staff didn't know they had control over how data was displayed in their system because that functionality hadn't been communicated during training. As a result, staff filled in the gap by assuming they couldn't do that.

This happens in other contexts, as well. For example, if a user comes to your website and can't find information about your refund policy for event registration, they may fill in the gap by assuming there are no refunds. Or you may have a membership payment plan for members who are out of work, but someone recently unemployed may not know this because it's not on your website.

It's also important to listen. Staff and customers will give you "clues" when they are trying to fill in the gap. If you hear things like "I just assumed..." or "It's always been the case that..." then you're hearing people filling in the gap.

The key is to communicate early and often. Anything and everything you don't communicate (gaps) will be filled in by your audience.

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