A New Year’s Habit

For many people, work consists of a series of urgencies.
Set them up and knock them down.
Empty the in-box, answer the boss, make the deadline.
Seth’s Blog, 2020 Dec 30

Make the deadline?!? Please don’t remind me. I’m taking a break from proposals.

Most of us are so stuck on the short-cycles of urgency
that it’s difficult to even imagine changing our longer-term systems.

If you happen to be outside a short cycle of urgency at this very moment, then consider taking Seth’s advice to fix your proposal systems:

  • Identify the kinds of work you never win or never make enough money on, and exclude them from future consideration. No exceptions.
  • Make it a requirement to get early executive review of your plan, so you have time to adjust course if necessary.
  • Train newbies in the ways of proposals. Before they start.
  • Persuade executives to expect a clear and comprehensive project-risk assessment by presenting one. Once. (They’re fast learners.)
  • Require costers to “show their work” so the next poor schmo through the mill can benefit from it.

And so on. They’re your urgencies: You know what needs to be fixed.

None of this works if you do it temporarily.
Resolutions don’t work. Habits and systems can.

 

2 Comments

  1. Jim Taylor

    What’s the saying, about distinguishing between urgent and important? We used to use an extended analogy about justice issues — that if you’re constantly busy running an ambulance to help accident victims, you’ll never get around to fixing the road that causes all the accidents. Something like that.

    But that implies an unacceptable decision — applying triage to some of those victims, treating them as collateral damage, so that you can fix the road, so that you can reduce the number of accidents.

    I guess I would ask Seth Godin, “If you don’t deal with the urgent stuff, will you even have a chance of getting at the important contract?”

    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Seth’s piece assumes-away that problem by his caveat: “If you’re outside a short cycle of urgencies.” From my work and other experience, I’d say that we can often improve things if we stop running, even for a minute, and think. It’s easy to put my head down and just keep working, but it’s not smart. I think many organizations have some spare capacity to focus on important. It’s largely a matter of thinking to do it.

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