Saturday, July 22, 2023

Shall, will, and may

You shall ...
I will ....
You or I may .....

Heard these phrases before?
What to make of them?

Actually, if you're sitting in the PMO reading a contract or other legal document handed to you by your contract's administrator, or you're on the other side helping to write an RFP , then these words are important.
  • "Shall" should be understood to be directive without discretion to act otherwise. Take 'shall' to be a synonym of 'must'. Usually, the context is that 'you' tell 'them' that they 'shall' do something.

  • "Will" is the other side of the table. When I impose a 'shall' on you, I often give myself a corresponding task. In that event, "I will" do something in the same context that I impose on you a "shall". "I will" should be taken as a commitment, just as "You shall" should be taken as a directive.

  • And then comes "may". A task constructed with a 'may' is discretionary on you and I. We may do it; we may not
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