One day prior to a meeting with a client and the municipality, my project leader asked me a question about possible opportunities with regard to the zoning plan. So I called a colleague with expertise in zoning plans and asked the questions my project leader wanted me to ask. I got the information, asked for some more clarification until I understood and reported back to my project leader. “OK, but did you also ask what we do in situation X or Y?”. “I don’t know, I didn’t ask”. “I have a meeting with the client and the municipality tomorrow, I don’t want to look like a fool, we need something good!”
It occurred to me that we didn’t have the same sense of urgency because he was going to be at the meeting and I wasn’t. I imagined I was the one being at the meeting the next day and called my colleague again: we had a different conversation. When I reported back to my project leader, he was happy with the results. What I did was that I took ‘imaginary ownership’ of the situation.
When I reflected on the situation, I realized I could do this in many other situations. If I imagine myself to be the one delivering the result, giving the presentation or having that meeting, I noticed I bring my products a few steps further. If I imagine my colleague will deliver my exact product to the client or gives that exact presentation with nothing more than the information I give him, it drives me to do the best I can. Furthermore, I noticed I ask my colleagues for more clarification as to what they are using my products for. For example, one of my managers asked me to give him some information about the development of universities. It turned out he needed it for a presentation to the board in which he would explain the development of universities and the ensuing opportunities for ARCADIS. So I made a presentation as if I would be presenting to the board. I wanted to make a great presentation, so my manager wouldn’t have to change it.
Before I took ‘imaginary ownership’ of situations, I would have sent my manager some information or some slides, relying on him to change it into something he could use. More in general, I would sent products to seniors, relying on them to add or correct the product before it was sent to the client. I would sent almost finished presentations, so my senior colleague could alter it to his demand. Don’t do that. Imagine that your version of the product or presentation will be used, without any modifications, and you will notice that you can and will improve your work.
Of course the good thing of ‘imaginary ownership’ is that you deliver better products. But furthermore, you show your manager or project leader you can handle responsibility. Take responsibility for your products, even if you don’t have that responsibility. Then soon, you will be given this responsibility. Imagine, the result :).
Roy van den Ban, ARCADIS The Netherlands