Letting decisions fester until the last possible moment is rarely a recipe for arriving at a well-considered answer. That may seem somewhat counterintuitive, because having more time to decide should allow someone to make the decision based on more perfect information. In my experience, that’s almost never actually the case. What really happens is that the decision is just put off and no actual thought is put into it until it’s the flaming bag of dog shit blistering the paint on your front porch. Put another way, the default setting is procrastination.
The real problem with waiting isn’t just that you leave a bunch of people sitting around with their thumbs up their asses while the pondering drags on for days or weeks. The problem is that in most cases decisions get delayed until it’s too late to apply any academic rigor and you just end up going off half-informed in whatever direction seems best at the time. Shooting from the hip with a scattergun is probably a fine strategy for defending your home from hopped up delinquents, but it rarely passes muster for decisions that require a little more fineness.
It’s not how I’d do things. In fact it’s precisely the opposite of how I run the 128 hours of my week for which I am the designated decision-maker. For the 40-hours a week wherein I have no decision-making authority whatsoever, though, that’s its own can of worms. The very best I can do is appraise those who do decide on the potential bad things that will result from waiting. After that all that’s left is a shrug and a muffled “told you so.”
Despite having no actual personal interest in event planning, I have a skill for it. I’ve largely learned to accept that fate for the time being. The thing about being a party planner is that it relies entirely on convincing people to go along with whatever wild ass scheme you come up with for them since you have no actual statutory authority to direct anyone to do anything.
The largest portion of my job that isn’t slamming together PowerPoint slides is taken up by “facilitating.” Since I’m not a subject matter expert in nearly anything these days, I specialize in putting the right people in a room and trying to help them come up with a plan. Sometimes people don’t want to play along. That sucks, but beyond flooding their inbox with meeting invitations and leaving the occasional well-worded voice message, I don’t have any actual power to force anyone to show up.
There are those at echelons higher than reality, however, that do have the power to force people to show up at specific times and places where they would rather not be. When those people turn to you and demand to know why someone isn’t in the room, well, the best I can do is shrug and remind them that I sent the invitation, I followed up with multiple calls, I sent a second invitation… and that at the end of the day, I’m not the one with the authority to make anyone do shit.
If those with legitimate controlling authority choose not to exercise it in favor of having we mere mortals ask nicely, I have no idea why they’d expect the results to be anything other than what they are.
When Pope Gregory “invented” the calendar, he was working under the belief that having a single universal standard that today was really “today” and not some time in the middle of February would be a good idea for the Christian kingdom’s of Europe. At the very least, it would allow everyone to hold their major celebrations and feast days at the same time. Good stuff if you were a Pope in the 16th century. Most people today keep a calendar for the same basic reason. It’s a hellofa good way to keep major events organized and make sure everyone shows up to them at the same time.
The rub comes, of course, when no one can agree what is supposed to be on a “major event” calendar. Senior staff meetings make the cut, but not inter-staff meetings. The Uberboss’ days off are on there, but not the senior staff. Multi-jurisdictional exercises show up, but sometimes not local exercises impacting people in the building. Some events are listed three times because whoever put them on there can’t figure out how to change the date and/or time of the original reservation. And keeping track of the hot mess that is our calendar falls to junior staff who a) Don’t know what the schedule is supposed to look like; b) Aren’t told when things change; c) Have never been given clear direction about what events “make the cut”; and d) Have no authority to demand information from other senior staff offices. Sure, that’s a guarantee of getting a good product.
The way I learned it back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth was that if you are given responsibility to do a thing, you should also be given the corresponding authority to make that thing happen. Having one without the other, well, is about as productive as trying to put a high gloss of a pile of feces. This little endeavor isn’t something that should be hard to do… but the players involved almost guarantee that it will be an exercise in futility… But the again, that’s never stopped us from wasting inordinate amounts of time before.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I’m pleased to announce that http://www.jeffreytharp.com is now registered with Technorati. If you’re blogging, there’s a fair chance you’re familiar with the site. If you’re not, the gist is that Technorati racks, stacks, and compares your blog based on a system of algorithms that are far beyond my meager abilities to understand and spits out your “authority” among bloggers. That is to say, it gives you a number you can compare against other blogs on similar topics and lets you compare your relative importance in the blogosphere. The scale is between a no-name, nobody of 1 and the elite-of-elite 1000.
Current jeffreytharp.com Technorati Authority: 1. This is one of those moments where it’s ok to be optimistic, because there’s absolutely no way to get lower than 1 on this scale. Onward and upward!
My voice has been heard calling out from the wilderness and I have been delivered! Unending thanks to an old friend who with the simple word “tomorrow” has granted a reprieve from two months of delaying tactics which others were too timid to protest. With that, I conclude my short career as an emergency manager. I still love the work, but find that continuing to work under a regime willing to exploit my talents while at the same time being told that I was not yet ready for greater authority was simply intolerable.
I’m just glad this version of deliverance doesn’t have a scary banjo-playing kid.