Unless Otherwise Instructed (U.O.I)

Here are my tips on how to use a technique called “unless otherwise instructed” or U.O.I so make sure work gets done even if you can’t get back to people in time.

Today I want to talk about a technique called you U.O.I or unless otherwise instructed. This is a technique to tell your team or other people or your freelancers what to do in the event that they don’t hear back from you about a project or task.

This has many purposes so I’ll give you a couple of examples.  Let’s say you have an assistant that you asked to get three quotes on catering for an upcoming meeting that you’re going to host but you get busy. The assistant gets you the quotes but you don’t really have time to go through them and look at them and decide which one to choose. So the meeting time gets closer and closer and suddenly there’s no catering in place and you’re scrambling to find a last-minute solution.

In this case, you could have solved this by saying to your assistant U.O.I or unless otherwise instructed choose what you think is the best of the three based on the combination of quality for the price and just go ahead and book it if you don’t hear from me by next Thursday.

The benefit here is if you get busy the work continues to be done it’s kind of like a deadman’s switch. If you do nothing then the work still continues.

Another benefit here is it can also be used to tell people what projects to continue working on. Let’s say you’ve given them a bunch of tasks and then you say unless otherwise instructed when these tasks are done I want you to go back and work on the research project that I had you’re looking into. Now when they get the five or six tasks you gave them finished they know automatically to shift to the research project instead of sitting there twiddling their thumbs wondering what to do next.

Some people are really good about being proactive and seeking you out when they don’t have work. But some other people, if you don’t give them very good specific instructions they just don’t really do any more work.

So using unless otherwise instructed makes sure that there’s work in place for those people in the event that you can’t get back to them. You get busy, you get overloaded, you’re tied up in meetings and this way you’re not holding up your team. The work is continuing to be done without you.

A key thing with this is to make sure that you don’t penalize people for using the unless otherwise instructed protocol if you’ve given them permission and authority to do so. Don’t get mad at them if you didn’t get back to them and give them different instructions and they dropped back to the unless otherwise instructed instructions because that’s what you set up  – that’s what you gave them to do. Make sure your staff aren’t penalized for following this and so they feel comfortable in future that they know unless they’re given other other instructions they can do it this way.

You can build this technique into the emails that you’re having with your team. You can build it into voice instructions when you’re giving them information by phone or in person when you’re telling them what to do next and you can build it right into your task system just use the U.O.I. Make sure if you are using an acronym such as U.O.I everybody knows what that is so that they don’t go what the heck’s UOI?

Build it right into your systems and you’ll find it works great because you’re not holding up your teammates if you get busy.

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