Come on, admit it.  You thought this was a topic on relationships and getting in touch with your feelings, didn’t you?  Well, in a sense, it is–at least, the former, anyway.
Ok, we all really, really fear hearing those words from our significant others.  We are in cruise mode thinking everything is fine.  Then, out of the blue, we get pulled aside, we sit down, our eyes meet, and those dreaded words are uttered.  You have the deer in headlights look.  Think hard: there must be some reason how or why you got to this point–and, it is your fault!
data collection justification (1)Well, working with a consultant on a data collection project is not much different.  The lines of communication always have to be open and free-flowing.  While defining the project, you have tasks to do to ensure that things run smoothly.  While defining who is doing what–and when–you also have to make sure that the ground rules for communication are set.  What is the proper channel of communication?  How often?  What is the mode?  And, just as important, make sure that EVERYTHING IS IN WRITING (documented).
Spell out everything you can think of.  Do NOT assume.  If you ask a question, make sure you document it.  Get the responsible party to read it and sign off on it.  How many times have you been bitten by, “…well, that’s not what we really said…” That problem is a two-way street as well.  What may be abundantly clear in your mind, may befuddle someone else as concepts are in the eye of the beholder.  Stay on top of the project.  Stay close to your team and consultants.
I have worked on many projects.  I don’t know if there was ever a project that did not have a hiccup or two along the way.  You may have to ask questions that may make you uncomfortable as you discover that it is not sunny and 70 in Projectville.  However, knowing about challenges or potential issues upfront eases the pain and also allows you to come up with the infamous, “Plan B” (or “C”, “D”, etc.).  Problems can be mitigated with the right information.  Burying your head in the sand only compounds the problems.
So before you hear, “we need to talk…”, you will be prepared.  Your boss, or significant other, will be impressed that you have been paying attention and actually do care!