So you let a deadline slide by. No big deal, right?
Actually, that ripple effect – and no matter what you tell yourself, there’s always a ripple effect – may spread further than you’d like to think. “One of the key challenges faced by our clients is how one person’s behaviour can affect the productivity of others,” says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. “In just about every person’s job there will be a situation where someone is waiting for something – be it a report, a signature, or an answer – from somebody. And this has the potential to cause chaos in an organisation.”
Anda cites the regular collation of board papers as a classic example of a situation where one missed deadline can create a multitude of complications: “A lot of executive assistants spend two or three days every month chasing relevant information from the people who have been delegated to provide it. This is not just a waste of the EA’s time – it also creates a complete inefficiency in the business.” And bad behaviour around board papers is often just the beginning, she observes. “It’s the same with any project,” she says. “If one person disrupts a timeline, the impact is enormous. If this is happening in four or five different projects, what’s happening to your productivity?” No prizes for guessing.
So what do you do to prevent this threat to productivity? Read on for a few pointers:
If your behaviour’s behind a breakdown in a system – and few of us are genuinely blameless – it’s not hard to kick the habit. “Plan your time better!” advises Anda. “It’s not enough just to block out time in your diary. The bottom line is to ensure you have sufficient time blocked out in your diary. Be realistic. Don’t allow yourself an hour to complete a task when in actual fact it will take two.”
“If you’re at all uncertain as to whether you can deliver on an agreed deadline, you need to negotiate more time,” says Anda. “Don’t delude yourself that you’ll get it done and don’t procrastinate about asking for a little breathing space. Allowing you more time will ultimately be less frustrating for the person waiting than seeing a deadline they’ve imposed come and go with no result.”
Don’t enable bad behaviour by avoiding the issue, says Anda: “If you ignore it, it will happen again.” Stop complaining and start communicating instead. “The most important thing to do is go to that person and explain how their behaviour is affecting your productivity,” she advises. “Ask them if you can revisit the process and then ensure they schedule it into their diaries as a recurring appointment.” Stand firm: “If you have provided a deadline, follow it up. If people know that they’re being held to account and understand the impact of their actions, they will do what needs to be done.”
So here’s a challenge for you. Think of your most frustrating processes, systems or projects where your momentum is mothballed by another’s bad habits (we’re guessing something comes to mind pretty quickly). And then arm yourself with our advice above and hit these situations head-on. After all, which would you prefer: a culture of chaos? Or a culture of communication and collaboration? You choose.
Subscribe to our mailing list for time-saving tips, the latest workplace wisdom, blog updates and more. And start planning a life outside the office.