Under Promising and Over Delivering (UPOD)

  • “Under Promise, Over Delivering” is a fundamental strategy to achieve success at work
  • What is under promising: it’s not copping out of responsibilities, but rather promising the “average” of what is customarily expected
  • Over delivering: is going above and beyond, providing what is expected ahead of schedule, providing results that exceed expectations, and/or anticipating questions and answering them proactively
  • Consistent work ethic under the UPOD premise should get you the deserved recognition

One of the ways to advance in your career is by consistently over delivering. I’ll say that again… Consistently. Over Delivering.

This advice works even if you’re not working in company mail room. bah-dum. I’m not talking about choosing to ship between FedEx or UPS. bah-dum.¬†I’ll be here 24/7 folks. ūüėČ Okay, jokes aside…

Better yet. Under Promise. Then Over Deliver. Or “UPOD” for those who appreciate acronyms.

What is Under Promising?

Under Promising is not copping out of real responsibilities. If you are given an assignment, by default, your team and/or manager are expecting a certain level of performance from you. Let’s say that level of performance is “average”. Whatever average means depends on the your organization, its culture and expectations.

Should you volunteer for a task, you should be promising to do what is expected of an “average-performing” employee. Your colleagues and manager would not expect or tolerate anything less. So when the opportunity presents itself, volunteer yourself for an assignment. But manage their expectation for “average” results.

Speaking of managing expectations, be sure you and other stakeholders have a mutual understanding of:

  • the entry criteria: what you need to begin the task
  • the process: how you will go about performing the task
  • any dependencies: what you need in order to complete the task, including need for any special help from subject matter experts, approvals at interim checkpoints, etc.
  • the exit criteria: what done looks like (this is important!)

so that there are no surprises. We speak in terms on generalities, so you’ll have to finesse the details as applicable to your situation.

In any case, remember to accept your new assignment, whether it was assigned or volunteered, with grace, enthusiasm, initiative, and engagement. Be positive. It’s an opportunity to shine.

What is Over Delivering?

Over delivering is to providing well-above average results, and clearly exceeding expectations of those involved. Here are some ideas for over delivering. Achieving one or more bullet points would be ideal:

  • Finish the task well ahead of the promised date (meeting the exit criteria defined as above)
  • Perform an outstanding task, clearly exceeding the exit criteria. Out do what anyone else would normally do on such a task. This is very situational dependent, as only you know what would exceed expectations. For example:
    • Anticipate questions from stakeholders and prepare the answers before they ask the questions. Perform additional analysis if necessary to answer or substantiate such questions.
  • While not part of the “over delivering”, keep stakeholders posted on your progress, as appropriate. Depending on the task’s visibility and urgency, consider keeping your colleagues, manager, and those who have a stake in your success apprised of your progress in the appropriate manner.
Why is UPOD a Good Thing?

Exceeding expectations is always a good thing. Your team mates, your colleagues, your manager, and your customers would all appreciate our over performing. It is a pleasant surprise and always welcomed. It benefits ¬†and reflects very well for your team, your manager, and your organization. It’s great news all around. There’s nothing that beats exceeding expectations, except…

What If You Fail to Over Deliver?

While the best of intentions, the best of plans, and the best of efforts do not always work out as we expect, do not fret if you don’t end up over deliver. There will be other opportunities. Meanwhile, do take some time to reflect, assess what went wrong, and take lessons learned. Be true to yourself. It is your professional development opportunity. If it is something that you could have done better, at least you’ll know next time.

However, if it is something beyond what you can control… or if it required more resources (more staff, more budget, more expertise, more time), then may be you should have asked for help. Knowing when to ask for help is a good thing. Read our article¬†S.O.S. – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.


Consistently exceeding expectations. That is top of the line.

Take pride in your work. Do the best you can in everything that you set out to do. Engage all your gifts and talent. Apply them decisively.

If you are able to consistently exceed expectations, your “stock” will increase. Your colleagues will take notice, so will your manager. While the occasional good deed will get noticed, consistent and repeated good deeds will be handsomely rewarded.

Thought Foodie: Think about the outcome if you consistently strive for UPOD in all aspects of your life: work, play, family, friends, health, and spiritual.

We will publish more articles related to career advice. Follow us on facebook to be notified when new articles are posted.