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From Where We Sit

Alignment checks

Anton Ng

“Dad, I’m sad,” said a melancholic voice from the other end of the line. The everyday heavy traffic made it now almost impossible for me to see my little girls during weekdays. Our daily interactions are now heavily dependent on mobile phones. Such a circumstance is oftentimes exacerbated when words such as “Dad, I’m sad” are being substituted for “Hi, Dad” as you start a conversation over the phone.

On this particular call from my eldest daughter, she was sad, because she was selected by her school to be one of the students who will participate as a live audience for a children’s television show. However, upon being chosen, she remembered that the taping for the show is in conflict with her younger sister’s school performance. She told her school principal about this; in turn, her slot was given to another student.

As a father, I did not know what to feel. On one hand, I was delighted that she remembered her sister at the very moment I am sure she was excited to be selected. I was proud of her, because she chose her sister’s performance over something she wanted to do for herself. At the same time, I felt sad, because I can hear in her voice she really wanted to be part of that television show.

We can learn a number of insights from this story, from setting priorities to being open to the idea that we may not be able to do all the things we want to do. I would like to focus, however, on the importance of expectation setting and the need to regularly align key parameters and objectives with the people or organizations we work with.

Whether we are dealing with a colleague within our team, a coworker from another division, or a third-party service provider, the need to regularly set or revisit expectations and align key parameters and objectives is critical.

This was the first time my eldest daughter, with her expanding network and set of activities, faced having a schedule conflict she needed to decide on. I do not think she knew how to exactly react at the very moment she was being asked to confirm if she can be part of the audience. All she knew was this: her sister will perform on that day and that, based on her limited experience, the entire family has always been there to watch. Based on such information, she formulated the expectation on herself by the family: that she needs to be present at her sister’s performance.

There are times in our professional and business commitments when we skip the part of clearly defining expectations, because we tend to rely on what we think are the other party’s expectations of us. There are also times when the expectations are set at the start of the relationship, but were never revisited as the relationship progresses through the years. The same is true with key parameters and objectives that were initially set, but evolve as the years go by.

Regularly revisiting expectations, objectives, and parameters critical to professional or business relationships is more of a preventive measure that would limit the possibility of any problems down the road. There are times when, even for long-term business relationships, due to the changing of key personnel or just the complacency arising from familiarity, people tend to forget the critical expectations and other key parameters that are part of the business partnership. As a result, misalignments in understanding and appreciation of the business objectives are only noticed when problems arise. Some of the eventual consequences may not have financial implications, but there are others that could result in multi-million peso losses. Even those that will not have financial consequences could put a dent on our relationships with key stakeholders.

Let us do regularly align with and check on our key partners in whatever role we perform to ensure that there is an alignment in our understanding of the key parameters and objectives, as well as of each other’s expectations.

The first thing I told my daughter was to thank her for thinking about her sister. I told her that I appreciate that she was willing, regardless of whether she feels sad about it, to forego an activity that she wanted to pursue, because it is in conflict with her sister’s performance. I added, however, that there seems to be a need to have a discussion with her sister on whether it would have been fine for her to pursue her own activity even at the expense of her missing the performance. This could hopefully provide her with more information when facing a similar situation in the future.

Anton Ng is a Partner in the Audit and Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website:


As published in The Manila Times, dated 18 September 2019