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I'll be interested to hear the rest the cast.

What I heard in this cast was that managers should browbeat their directs into accepting deadlines without regard for planning or reality. I hope that the second episode provides some guidance for determining what a "good" deadline is.

That's a little harsh, right...

But it made me think of this scenario.

1. Ask when the delivery will be :
- 9 months, give or take a couple weeks.

2. Provide a deadline :
- No.. I need the baby in 8 months.

3. What will it take?

I've had too many experiences of being asked to meet deadlines that were either arbitrary, or based on the mis-planning of some other department, that I struggle to accept the notion that management should provide urgency through deadlines.

Especially when those that miss deadlines are often criticized more heavily than those that caused the "urgency" to begin with.

Furthermore, while MT encourages managers to increase the sense of urgency by imposing tighter deadlines, I wonder how many O3s and coaching will be needed to recover from the unproductiveness caused by stress and low morale.

I don't think we shouldn't have deadlines, but I do think they should be based on reality and cast in the context of a high-pace, yet sustainable, effort.

datz's picture

Yes, that was my problem with this cast! If you have a reasonable manager that understands your current workload fine. However I have been subject to too many unrealistic deadlines being imposed on me, just because someone further up the line was jumping on my manager. What usually happens is I get into a discussion about priorities. "I [u]can[/u] do that by your x deadline but please advise me which of y tasks you would like me to downgrade/delay?"
Thats not a lack of urgency thats effective time management and task prioritising.

Mark's picture

Thanks for the comments!

We always think we're talking to reasonable managers. ;-)

There's no doubt that MANY of the Manager Tools suggestions could, in the hands of a less than ethical boss, be misused. I've actually been given feedback by someone who followed the model perfectly, yet with a sneer in his voice, and then walked away, saying snidely to a colleague, "I just gave Mr. Feedback some of his own medicine."

So, you're right - in the wrong hands, some of our tools will be misapplied and corrupted. Axes and hammers figure prominently in murders through the centuries... but I have a few around the house, and they're indispensable when I need them.

The purpose of the cast was to help those managers who struggle with a lack of sense of urgency with someone who works for them. If you don't suffer from that, that's good!

[b]But many, many managers do[/b]. I see it many times every month. It's a real problem. Glad it's not yours - one less thing to worry about!

Mark

akinsgre's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Thanks for the comments![/quote]
You're welcome!

Do you, or any of the participants, think there are other ways to create urgency?

Namely, how can you create urgency when you don't know how long something will/should take, and you don't have anything as concrete as "Black Friday" to use for guidance?

[quote="mahorstman"]
We always think we're talking to reasonable managers. ;-)

There's no doubt that MANY of the Manager Tools suggestions could, in the hands of a less than ethical boss, be misused. I've actually been given feedback by someone who followed the model perfectly, yet with a sneer in his voice, and then walked away, saying snidely to a colleague, "I just gave Mr. Feedback some of his own medicine."

So, you're right - in the wrong hands, some of our tools will be misapplied and corrupted. Axes and hammers figure prominently in murders through the centuries... but I have a few around the house, and they're indispensable when I need them.

The purpose of the cast was to help those managers who struggle with a lack of sense of urgency with someone who works for them. If you don't suffer from that, that's good!

[b]But many, many managers do[/b]. I see it many times every month. It's a real problem. Glad it's not yours - one less thing to worry about!

Mark[/quote]

sholden's picture

I sometimes can create urgency based on stating an "urgency" that a customer has that the process is taking too long from their perspective and I query my team on how we can speed up delivery without creating a date.

This helps in our environment where we have a lot of to do items that are really first in first out tasking.

Steve

Mark's picture

Greg-

I thought the cast just did that.

?

Mark

akinsgre's picture

Thanks for your response.

Also, despite my complaint about this podcast, I am also thankful for the great content. It's really helped me grow over the past year.
[quote="mahorstman"]Greg-
I thought the cast just did that.
[/quote]

I should probably listen again when I listen to the second part. My reaction against deadlines might have clouded my perspective.

But all I heard was that setting deadlines is the only way to create urgency.

Mark's picture

Sorry if we weren't clear. I suppose there are a lot of ways to encourage others to have a sense of urgency... but there's a subtlety we didn't make clear. You can't MEASURE others' sense of urgency. I would argue that those whom you see as having it are those who finish things before others, and often in advance of deadlines. Since we can't measure how they're feeling, we address what we CAN measure: how much time they have.

The issue is MEASURING.

And, if you don't like deadlines, I hate to say it, but better find something else to do than work in a profit-oriented firm. It's only going to get worse over time and with more responsibility. How does one get to work on time every day with a negativity to deadlines?

Mark

akinsgre's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Sorry if we weren't clear. I suppose there are a lot of ways to encourage others to have a sense of urgency... but there's a subtlety we didn't make clear. You can't MEASURE others' sense of urgency. I would argue that those whom you see as having it are those who finish things before others, and often in advance of deadlines. Since we can't measure how they're feeling, we address what we CAN measure: how much time they have.

The issue is MEASURING.
[/quote]

OK. But what happens when you establish that deadline and people still don't get stuff done? Or they under-deliver?

I'd suspect that feedback and coaching would be in order.

So, in applying the coaching model, meeting deadlines with quality work is the behavior you want. Creating Urgency seems like it should be more a function of the coaching than setting the behavioral expectation.

As a software developer, one thing I do is set a timebox for delivering features. N number of features must be done at the end of the timebox, and as a project progresses, I can gauge how productive the team is by measuring the amount of stuff delivered. This protects me from forcing unrealistic delivery dates, but still measuring the "Urgency".

[quote="mahorstman"]
And, if you don't like deadlines, I hate to say it, but better find something else to do than work in a profit-oriented firm. It's only going to get worse over time and with more responsibility. How does one get to work on time every day with a negativity to deadlines?

Mark[/quote]

Flextime ;-)

jacobwood's picture

On the second cast on this topic, Michael relates a story about how as a project/team lead he asked for advice from his manager on creating a sense of urgency and his manager's response was to secure passive updates from the team-members.

This raises a bigger issue to me: how does one create a sense of urgency if one is only a team lead and not the actual manager. Some of the more agressive methods discussed in the cast seem like they could turn off a team member and worse, drive them to your's and their manager (probably the same person). In Michael's example, he got direct support to push for status updates, so this is a more comfortable position as he was given a clear mandate.

How does a team lead create a sense of urgency and, to expand even more, how do the lessons of manager-tools apply to a team lead? This could be a good cast topic...

Love your work, its how I got where I am and how I'll get where I'm going.

Cheers,

Jake

jhack's picture

The basics are still the same. Ask for a time and a date. Follow up when the deliverable/artifact is due. Provide feedback appropriately. You can still do one-on-ones with team members, even if they don't report to you.

I have lived this on a project where I was the lead and no one reported to me. It works. Members of that team still talk about that project when we get together, years later.

juliahhavener's picture

Great questions! I started using a wide variety of manager tools as a team lead. I did a sort of 'mini' O3 (what's up with them, what I can help them do to meet their goals). I gave feedback. And when needed, I used a lot of the urgency podcast. As a lead, you're often still responsible for deliverables and/or performance. You can certainly use that to advantage in as many ways as possible.

terrih's picture

I just listened to the urgency 'cast recently... had a chance to use it today.

In an O3 the DR was updating me on her projects. I had been asked earlier about the #1 priority, and I did think it had been taking a little too long. So I mentioned to her that I'd been asked about it in the morning meeting.

"I'll get it done today," she said.

"3:00 today," I replied.

At 3:05 my Outlook task reminder went off :wink: and I went to her desk. She was working on #2 priority, which told me she must be done with #1. (My DRs generally deliver directly to the internal customers.) Great! All was cool! :D

WillDuke's picture

It would have saved you a walk and some indigestion if she notified you. I think some feedback is in order. Sure, she delivers directly, but that doesn't mean she can't notify you.

terrih's picture

That would be a brand new expectation, so I would need to set the expectation first, but your point is well taken.

mauzenne's picture

It occurred to me while reading through these again that part of the problem managers have with setting aggressive deadlines is the absolutely AWFUL examples of feedback they've seen throughout their careers.

Setting, and then MISSING, aggressive deadlines is much easier to stomach (both for you AND your subordinates) when you have the feedback model down. You set aggressive deadlines, hold people accountable, and give feedback in the same tone that you would if you were giving positive feedback.

If you miss this point and think that feedback is an ass-chewing, the idea of setting goals that someone may well miss seems nuts, I'm sure. My experience, particularly with tech orgs (akinsgre, I'm an ex-programmer too), is that the fear of failure is so high that we build so many contingencies into our plans that the projected costs give our customers epileptic fits. And this is from someone who's had to go to the president of the company and tell him why I had tens of millions of capital dollars unspent at the end of the year. And to be clear, this is NOT a good thing ... meant that other important business investments were NOT done (opportunity cost). Why? Tech orgs protecting themselves from failure by building in estimates for every contingency in the world.

We have got to get over the fear of failing ... exercising the feedback model properly will help your organization with that.

[Who said Mark was the only one that could get on a soap box ;-) ]

Mike

WillDuke's picture

Interesting point Mike. I never thought about it being acceptable to miss deadlines. But of course, with good communication, what's the big deal? Something came up, we're dealing with it.

Mike should post more often... :)

misstenacity's picture

In the cast, it was mentioned that accelerated deadlines are a good technique to increase urgency, especially with top performers (if its due in 7 days, make the deadline 5 days, etc) . . .

. . . and then later on in the cast the comment was made that "arbitrary" deadlines are dangerous and to be avoided, bad for morale, just generally not advisable.

So, did I miss something or is this a rare contradiction? :?

TomW's picture

I took those as two different ideas.

An accelerated deadline was just a way to see if a top performer was capable of going faster.

An arbitrary deadline is one completely made up with no basis in reality, not even considering how long the task could take to complete.

AManagerTool's picture

The concept is that work is like a gas. It fills the container it's given. If you give it two weeks, that's what it will take. When you compress it slowly over time, it starts to condense. You compress it over time to allow the heat of compression (Push back) to dissipate. The condensate that you collect is the pure work without all the other work gas contaminates like procrastination, surfing the Internet, video solitaire, long lunches etc.

BTW, Can you tell my degree is in chemical engineering?

There is no contradiction. Your directs think it will take two weeks. The first time it may and tell them they did a good job. The next time start to push the piston in a bit and ask them to reduce the cycle time to a week and a half. See if you get some condensate or if the heat of compression becomes too great. If it does, you have found the limit of the system in question and you can start to approach a systematic (technical change IE add cooling..lol) to begin to address it. Tell them they did a good job but can they help you find ways of reducing the cycle time. If it does not, you have some more compressing to do. Tell them they did a great job and next time lets see if we can get it done in a week!

An arbitrary deadline has the effect of compressing that gas without allowing the heat of compression to dissipate.

jhack's picture

PV = nRT

John

AManagerTool's picture

[quote="jhack"]PV = nRT

John[/quote]

This equation works for everything!

LOL

stephenbooth_uk's picture

I thinkthe module was called "[url=http://www.chemtutor.com/gases.htm#combined]Gas Laws[/url]".

[code:1](P1*V1)/T1=(P2*V2)/T2[/code:1]

V (Volume) is the amount of work done.
P (Pressure) is the tightness of the deadline.
T (Temperature) is the level of distress the workers are put under

If you want V to be constant but increase P, that is do the same amount of work in less time, T will have to rise (assuming all other variables (processes, number of workers &c) are constant). The rise in T may be sustainable or may cause a breakdown of the system, typically the higher the rise in T the less time it can be sustained for (people can manage a high level of distress for a short period but over longer periods their capacity for distress is lower), much like a vessel containing gas at pressure may be weakened by heat.

Stephen

mjhemming's picture

I recently listened to the “Develop a Sense of Urgency in Your Team” podcast and I am excited about the recommendations and look forward to implementing them.  Once excuse I expect to hear for missed deadlines is the classic “someone else dropped the ball” and therefore I could not complete my piece on time.  I think that is one of those “bad answers” that I need to be ready for, and I am looking for some suggestions on how to combat it.  How do I give negative feedback on my direct’s missed deadline due to other teams not completing their piece on time?

Thanks,

Matt

tlhausmann's picture