Say-Do Ratio

This week I heard a about a new term called the Say-Do ratio. It’s something everyone has. However, you probably don’t know your own, and everyone you work with probably sees your ratio slightly different.

What is it? It’s the mental ratio we start assigning to people based on how often they say they’re going to do something and how often they actually follow through and do what they said. The goal, is to have a very small ratio – which would mean that you generally do what you say (you are good at the follow through) and people can count on you.

When the term was being explained, I think every single one of us in the room was nodding along and thinking “yep, I know people with terrible say-do ratios.” And probably some were wondering nervously about their own.

I think I probably have a pretty decent one, at least when it comes to work related stuff. I’m generally a maybe and a no-show to social gatherings (I just feel so uncomfortable at them). But this may not hurt the ratio as much, since I usually say no, so it’s not that I don’t follow through after saying yes…

I think we encapsulate this concept in many different ways and call it many different things. A common example is the idea of having a “reputation” on a site online (as a seller on eBay or a commenter on Stack Overflow). Both of these are essentially asking did the person do what was asked (and what they agreed to do) and did they do it well. The “do it well” part was not mentioned in the original definition of the say-do ratio, but I think it’s just as important. Because just because someone follows through is usually not enough – the outcome is also important.

Having this concept of a say-do ratio in the back of your mind when you are about to commit to a task can be really useful. Before you say ‘yes’, ask yourself – is this going to improve my say-do ratio or hurt it? I.e. Can I/Will I actually follow through on this task and do it well? If the answer is no, maybe you need to re-think accepting the task/job. And if the answer is yes, you should make sure you put in the time and effort needed so that it stays a yes.


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