How to Agree on Deliverables Quickly and Clearly

You can prevent misunderstandings and get your whole team on the same page by using the simple tool of an IS-IS NOT list.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #475

Deepen IS/IS-NOT sheets with all parts of speech

The neat thing about IS/IS-NOT sheets is that anything can come after the word IS or IS-NOT.

Based on their IS/IS-NOT criteria, the team has chosen the Aloe Vera plant as their next big product at the Green Growing Things shop. Now it’s time to create a marketing plan to sell the aloe. You guessed it: it’s time for another IS/IS-NOT sheet. 

Bernice has a very specific idea for what a marketing plan looks like. So she starts off the IS/IS-NOT with the nouns.

“A good marketing plan,” Bernice explains, “IS a binder with sections. It is a timeline. It is a list of action assignments." Thomas says it IS full of key success indicators that can be used to measure success or failure. The team catches on, and they move on to the IS-NOT side of the page. Xris points out that a marketing plan IS NOT a video. Melvin says it IS NOT a secret book of wizardry locked in Bernice’s desk in her office. Europa says it IS NOT revolutionary extremist propaganda. 

These are all fine IS-NOT statements. They’re a little…out there, but they do draw boundaries. You and I both know that if you were in the room, you’d add nouns that bring the boundaries in a little tighter: that a marketing plan IS-NOT a sales script, IS-NOT the implementation of that plan, and IS-NOT a rote duplicate of a previous plan.

That covers the nouns. Nouns in your IS/IS-NOT generally illustrate what something is.

Use adjectives, too

Now deliberately add adjectives to the IS/IS-NOT sheet. Again, this is intended to be super-flexible.

Nouns in your IS/IS-NOT generally illustrate what something is.

A marketing plan IS: organized, actionable, reviseable, shareable on the internet, optimistic, and under 30 pages.

A marketing plan IS-NOT: written in passive voice, hard to understand, written in less than a 10 point font, or burdensome.

Adjectives in your IS/IS-NOT generally imply goals, benchmarks, and qualities of how the deliverable works.

Add in qualities of the deliverable process

Finally, you can also add in qualities of how your deliverable is produced. The team is getting used to this, and they’re now adding:

A marketing plan IS: written by Melvin and Xris, done by the end of Q1, implementable within two weeks of being finished, written with everyone’s input in mind, and shared with the entire team.

A marketing plan IS-NOT: created without looking at existing sales data, rigid in the face of contradictory data, implemented without being approved by Bernice.

Two weeks have passed since Bernice and her team introduced Aloe into the inventory at Green Growing Things. Melvin and Xris’s marketing plan was designed and implemented beautifully, and profits are way up. To celebrate, the team decides it’s time for a free movie night! YAY! 

And they start by asking everyone on the team what an entertaining movie IS and IS-NOT. Lesson learned.

IS/IS-NOT sheets are a great way to help define a common goal or deliverable. They’re quick for a group to create, and the discussion that goes into them helps make sure everyone’s on the same page and the only surprises are happy ones. 

I'm Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. Want great keynote speeches on productivity, Living an Extraordinary Life, or entrepreneurship? Hire me! Find me at http://SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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