Lesson of the week:
1. Think like a boy scout: Be prepared. One of my dear friends and colleagues suggests that you work ahead two days. Most people get a chuckle out of that and then say, "yeah right?" He goes on to say that each of your activities falls within one of four categories: Urgent and Important, Urgent not as Important, Important not as Urgent, and Not Important Not Urgent. A reasonable way to look at things for the most part. What is missing here, in my opinion, is the OTHER person's categorization. I like to use the concepts of the Johari window to understand that often, what you know and understand as public knowledge, may in fact be a blind spot.
In our hurried block and tackle lives, there are a lot of missed opportunities to drill into and make absolutely sure that all parties agree on the priority, deadline, expectations and critical success factors of any given activity. We rely on email to get the message across and act as a audit trail, yet miss the fact that the intended audience is likely not reading the message or skimming it on a 3"x 4" cell phone screen. How can we be so disconnected in our always connected world?
So many factors are at play in our common human interactions, there are bound to be gaps. Often our daily interactions are more like a game of Telephone, except our operators are distracted and the messages are not getting to all the intended parties - intact or not. Worse, those that might have been expecting the message, aren't asking for it [or clarifications] and go about making their own understandings. These then, put pressure into the mix causing an 'Important but not as Urgent' activity to become for them 'Urgent and Important'. Now, the two day plan ahead is out the door because what was thought to be Public Knowledge has become a Blind Spot raising the urgency level to a frenzy - this is especially true if the pressure is placed by a superior.
- Who are all the possible internal stakeholders?
- Who are all the possible external stakeholders?
- Has the scope been clearly defined and agreed upon by all stakeholders?
- What are the set milestones and due date?
- Do both sets of stakeholders know and agree on the set milestones and due date?
- What are the Critical Success Factors (CSF)?
- Do both sets of stakeholders know and agree on the CSF?
- Do all parties agree on the level of urgency in general?
- Do all parties agree on the level of urgency for specific tasks and activities within the scope?
- Have intervals for communication to the various stakeholders been set at agreed upon times?
- Have you personally reviewed these factors at each communication to ensure that there is ongoing agreement and understanding? Keep asking.
If you have not personally answered each of these questions - you likely have created your own blind spot. There will be a question that needs to be answered that has not been thought of or asked - so keep asking. Being prepared means you know that there will be unanswered questions or gaps and trying to anticipate those to prevent an emergenc.y. Or in the words of Sir Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the boy scouts): “Be Prepared... the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.”
Don't let others create an emergency that takes you by surprise. Be Prepared.