You can get so confused
that you start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
-Dr. Seuss “Oh, the Places You’ll Go“
As a project manager who works on complex implementation projects, I find that I spend a lot of time waiting…
- waiting for developers to finish their work
- waiting for approval or feedback
- waiting for resource availability
It isn’t the inherent waiting associated with regular project management that’s frustrating, it’s the “hurry up and wait” syndrome that bogs me down. These are scenarios where you have completed some component of work, are have been waiting for some time for feedback. When the feedback is finally provided, the expectation is that you will turn around a response or resolution immediately. If not managed correctly, this becomes an ugly cycle.
I have to remind myself that this isn’t happening to make my life difficult. There are underlying motivations that I don’t necessarily understand. Ron Ashkenas’s 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review “Two Ways to Reduce “Hurry Up and Wait” Syndrome” suggests that this is a byproduct of the “dramatic acceleration of today’s business culture.” Mr. Ashkenas provides two suggestions for how to minimize the impact by 1) putting a premium on removing low value work so there is more bandwidth for handling urgent issues and 2) do a better job prioritizing new requests as they come in, specifically making decisions on urgency.
I’m a huge supporter of both of these suggestions, but I think the minimize the partnership aspect of working with clients. As a value added partner you should remember these 3 things when faced with the “hurry up and wait” syndrome:
- You don’t know what the other person is going through – Yes, you are feeling the stress of the other person’s action, but who knows what they are going through. Maybe this is worse for them.
- It is critical you communicate – You need to be able to have a conversation. Tell your customer when you are going to deliver (within reason of course) and deliver. This may not be the requested tomorrow or noon today deadline, but people will generally be reasonable if you set and meet expectations.
- Don’t let yourself fall into the “hurry up and wait” syndrome – If you aren’t careful you can find yourself in a situation where you are constantly fighting fires and always reacting to situations. You need to be able to look at all you have to do, across all clients and make legitimate decisions about priority and urgency. By introducing process, you can bring peace to the chaos. It’s this step of building system and process that will allow you to grow and develop smarter as an organization.