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I have been attempting to create a sense of urgency within my team lately and have repeatidly come up against a reoccuring wall of resistence. Setting dates and times for individual projects (actually, indidvidual steps within individual projects) to be done is completely knew at our organisation. The most common responses I get are

1. Resentment; e.g. the "look" followed by the response "if you want to know when it is going to be done look at my past numbers. I'm a performer and I get the job done so when doesn't matter."

2. The I don't know syndrome; e.g. I don't know. I've never thought about it before, it gets done when it gets done.

3. Stop wasting my time syndrome; e.g. I can't tell you right now because I'm too busy working on it. I'll let you know when I'm done though.

4. Pressure; e.g. I can't work under this pressure. I don't want to tell you a time because if I don't meet the deadline you are going to come out and hold my feet to the fire and make me feel uncomfortable and I don't want to work in a situation like that. I don't work well under pressure.

Now, these responses I get from both my top performers and my low performers. I push for a time, but sometimes I feel I am doing more harm and creating more resentment than necesary. I give positive feedback when goals are met and negative feedback when goals are not met. I guess my question is how to side step these common respones without creating a mutiny.

Brad

Mark's picture

Bradley-

Sorry, but there's no sidestepping the issue, and I don't think you need to.

But first, let me ask - did you start the effort at a sense of urgency because of an issue with deadlines? Was your team not meeting deadlines, or were you dealing with bandwidth issues?

That said, if you believe that your team needs a sense of urgency, then you're doing the right thing, and it's creating conflict. And conflict isn't a reason not to do it.

Part of management is pushing and growing your team. Sometimes, that irritates your team members. This is a place where one on ones, over time, have built the relationship such that you can afford to stress it by asking for more.

Mark

jpb's picture

Maybe you can explain the reasoning behind having deadlines. Due dates help you plan for future projects, they help allocate projects evenly and so on. My ability to deliver work on time has also been a great asset professionally. Maybe you can get your team to buy into this as a learning opportunity. My team now asks for milestones and deadlines with every new project.
good luck!
James

bradleymewes's picture

James,

I actually took the step of explaining on Friday the reason behind deadlines. I seemed to get a good initial response, especially when I correlated deadlines with individual responsibility. My goal is to have my team asking for deadlines. I'm sure that will happen.

Mark - pushing for deadlines began with bandwidth issues. We aren't getting the amount of work out in the amount of time necessary (I assume that is what you mean by bandwidth issues). Asking for multiple project deadlines is a very foreign idea for all of the employees here and has never been asked for before. A common complaint from employees, customers, and external vendors as well is that there is no sense of urgency in our business.

I'll keep up the communication keep up the effort. I'll understand that friction will happen. I'll keep giving feedback. Thanks for the input!

Brad

Mark's picture

Brad-

Okay. So, keep pushing. Your folks seem to want to do it the way they always have, and the customers say they're not happy. Your job is to help your existing team learn to handle deadlines... and I promise you, LOTS of feedback, related to time and deadlines, is the way to go. You can change the culture of your team by giving positive feedback when they show an attention to time (being on time for meetings AND deadlines) and negative feedback when they don't.

Don't let up. If they want a place where they do it the old way and deadlines aren't important, your customers are telling you that this is no longer that place. I know it sounds harsh, but that means change or go...unless you want to admit they won't change to your boss, and try to support that.

They'll push back for a while. But be nice, stay firm, and things will change.

Mark

bradleymewes's picture

Mark,

Thank you for the prompt response!

One final question in regards to feedback. Sometimes I feel like a broken record. There are only so many reasons I can list for both positive and negative feedback on meeting deadlines. Sometimes I feel like I am saying the same thing over and over and over. Is this normal?

Brad

Mark's picture

Brad-

Yes. It's normal.

I could talk for hours about it... but it sort of relates to good management is boring, repetitive, and not sexy, not pretty, not interesting. It is doing the same things over and over and over and over again, and doing them so well and so effortlessly that it becomes like driving to work - so effortless you can forget about the process. Everyone wants to make it creative, or exciting. You cannot do that without first mastering the underpinnings... and the underpinnings are about the disciplines of relationships and organizational needs.

Say it over and over again. When you catch yourself feeling that, say so. "I say this all the time, I know... and that ought to make us realize it is NOT going away until we all do it like the clock ticking. Do a few things right, and everything else gets a LOT easier, and FAST."

That 'pain' you're feeling is your management muscle growing, not being pulled.

Mark

bradleymewes's picture

:) Understood. Thank you.

PierG's picture

I have to say that the term 'urgency' has probably a slightly different meaning in italian. It's more related to being in a hurry.

Anyway, in the agile management space we use to time box activities to commit and release value on a constant, tight but sustainable pace. When you get the rhythm, it works pretty well!

PierG

bradleymewes's picture

Pier,

That is exactly the message I am trying to explain but I feel it is getting lost on my employees! That is, to "commit and release value on a constant, tight, sustainable pace". I know once we get to that point we will see HUGE benefits. It is just getting to that point though.

Brad

bflynn's picture

Brad - just catching up on this topic.

If you have some spare time (hah :D), try googling "time pacing" - it sounds like this is what you're trying to do. Time Pacing is used in the software industry to perform releases on a fixed schedule, but is being applied to other industries too. It sounds to me like much of the reasoning behind time pacing, including WHY, applies to your situation too.

Brian

mapletree's picture

I have a related issue. I manage a group of support reps in a highly reactive environment. Problem is the same individuals are regularly involved in several projects going on simultaneously. Whenever I try to hold them to deadlines or build a sense of urgnecy to meet deadlines I get the same response that ' something came up and I didn't get to it' . Many times it is true but just as many times it's not true. How can I measure anyone performance in this type of environment?

juliahhavener's picture

You can still hold them to it. Something will ALWAYS come up. Half of my battle is convincing others that fighting the fire isn't always the best way to work.

If something comes up that's important enough - I expect to know what the delay is BEFORE the deadline has come and gone. You can adjust deadlines before they arrive if need be, but not after the fact. This also allows you to help them find the balance between the fires and the daily grind.

Mark's picture

Mapletree-

Your problem isn't measurement. it's clear to me you're measuring them...you know they aren't meeting the goal.

Your problem is accountability, and the answer is feedback.

Mark

AManagerTool's picture

mapletree,

I also run a support group that does projects during the year. I had a high performer who would consistently use the same excuse for missing project deadlines. However, they perform gloriously when it comes to the service work. It seems that they perfer and have a talent for it. That said, projects still have to be done and deadlines met.

I gave feedback based in the model, ad infinitum, on her missing deadlines but nothing seemed to be getting through. All year long this has been going on resulting in a loss of her top performer status and rating. The consequences by mid-year 08 for continuation of the saga will be more dire. I take it as a failure on my part.

She LOVES to do the service and HATES the projects. Maybe the service part is the reward for the projects part? Maybe, I should run with that in mind? Should I use a sort of "eat your vegatables or no desert!" mentality? I don't have the option of offloading project based work and I can't allow her to run at 60% of her potential.

Maybe my off the charts high D feedback needs to be adjusted to her S personality type?....hmmmmmmmmm

WillDuke's picture

Since you're a self-declared high D, and I have a pretty high S, I'd like to share an insight. I suspect her "S" personality type responds well to the continual feedback loop of working directly with people (service). When she's working on projects, is she getting time with people? Is she getting that same fulfillment? Can you make it so she does? Can you adjust your feedback accordingly?

* Jan, when you miss deadlines on project X it puts the whole team behind the 8-ball.
* Jan, When you de-prioritize your part in projects it impacts Tom's ability to get his job done.
* Jan, when you let your projects go you're letting down the people who are counting on that work being done.

etc.

AManagerTool's picture

Thanks Will.

Naturally, I didn't think about the constant feedback she gets from our customers as being where she derives her pleasure. I'll keep that in mind and try to come up with something.

Seriously, Thanks....that was insightful.

sambahat's picture

Is she getting invited to any of the project meetings where decisions are made? Has she been involved in any kickoff meetings? Or is she simply getting assigned project tasks and expected to "just get them done?"

I've had similar situations where I made sure my high S team members felt part of the overall team... made sure they felt that they were part of something larger.