I had the great pleasure last weekend of visiting Greytown – a most enjoyable stay at the White Swan – and had an informative chat with the engaging owner of one of the wonderful local furniture and antiques shops.

It seems that the hazards of the furniture restoration business, overlap more than you think with a common problem in the IT business, namely, as suppliers how can we be sure that we’re delivering what the client really wants and needs?  And, as a client, what can you do to reduce the chance of your supplier failing to meet your requirements?

The story I heard goes a bit like this…

Mr X was sure and certain that he loved this chair, and it would look perfect this colour and this fabric, so gave explicit instructions to do exactly that: cover this chair with this colour of this fabric.  So that is exactly what the furniture restorer did. No more, no less, just exactly as specified.

Mr X came to collect the chair – and hated it.  It simply wouldn’t “work” in the space it was intended to go in.  Oh dear, oh dear, this was first time that space was ever discussed!  The dimensions, the other furnishings, the colours, the use of the space.  And do you know, if all those factors had been discussed, there is no way the furniture company would have suggested that chair in that colour!  But by doing exactly
as they had been asked, the furniture company ends up in the unenviable position of charging for a result that the client is unhappy with – or not charging for it and carrying the cost of carrying out the client’s well-meant but actually incorrect instructions!

Sometimes what you as a client actually need and your perception of what will be involved can be two different things. If you are the client, please be aware that you can get yourself and your furniture (or IT) provider in a “no win” situation, simply by specifying exactly how you want a job done, rather than specifying what you want to achieve.  Your provider goes ahead in good faith, doing exactly what you specified, then when you see the result, you realise too late that it’s not what you needed or wanted.

So if I or my team take a bit of extra time probing to find out what you want to achieve, rather than how you’re expecting it to be done, this is why.