My father is fond of a quote that he attributed to Henry Ford: “Don’t make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your enemies don’t care.” While I’m not sure Henry Ford ever actually said that, I like the quote.
My other favorite quote about excuses was proffered by the girl’s soccer coach at my high school: “Excuses are like a**holes. Everybody’s got one, and they all stink.” I always thought that screaming that line to a bunch of 15 to 18 year old girls was pretty ballsy. (They did win the county championship, so I guess he knew what he was doing.)
A few weeks ago I wrote about over-communication and the importance of keeping everybody in the loop. That said, there is no reason to create excuses if things aren’t going as planned. It’s tempting to offer a series of excuses when you have to deliver bad news. The problem is that excuses don’t usually provide satisfaction and can on occasion even anger the offended party even more.
Of course, the best policy is to not disappoint the client in the first place. I do everything I can to manage the process and avoid disappointment. If the project heads off track, my general policy is to deliver the news devoid of any editorializing until I’m asked. Then if I can, I provide some context and a reason for the delay. But never an excuse. If there isn’t a legitimate reason (which is different from an excuse) for the project going askew, I’ll just apologize and try to identify a new solution.
A final thought… when you have to present a problem to a client, it’s often received much more favorably if you offer an alternative or two. So instead of looking like a whining toddler making excuses, you’ll look like a consultant that is focused on finding solutions.