A few years ago I had to give a presentation in which I was trying to get the point across that when giving/receiving tasks, people need to make more of an effort to:
(1) Listen properly
(2) Check understanding
(3) Ask questions
I discovered a really good anecdote for getting this message across and it worked very well. I read it aloud, word for word…
“A new employee is hired at the Tickle Me Elmo (a cuddly toy which laughs when tickled) factory. The Personnel Manager explains her duties and tells her to report to work promptly at 8.00am.
Tickle Me Elmo!
The next day at 8.45am there is a knock at the Personnel Manager’s door. The assembly line foreman comes in and starts ranting about this new employee. He says she is incredibly slow and the whole line is backing up. The foreman takes the Personnel Manager down to the factory floor to show him the problem.
Sure enough, Elmos are backed up all over the place. At the end of the line is the new employee. She has a roll of material used for the Elmos and a big bag of marbles. They both watch as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around two marbles and starts sewing the little package between Elmo’s legs.
The Personnel Manager starts laughing hysterically. After several minutes he pulls himself together, walks over to the woman and says “I am sorry, I guess you misunderstood me yesterday, I said, your job is to give Elmo “two test tickles.”
I still find it as amusing as it is true. If only the new employee had asked questions. If only the personnel manager had checked the new employee’s understanding of their duties.
I’m now going to Google to see if I can find myself one of those Elmos with balls…