What Are You Waiting For?
For many years I directed professional services teams in high tech industries. A big part of my responsibility, and therefore my project manager’s (PM) responsibility, was to forecast (predict) how much revenue each PM would bring in each quarter. This was done on a project by project basis.
Each week I met with the collective team and reviewed how each project was progressing. I would ask if their project was on track and the completion date firm. Once the project was completed, we could invoice the customer and therefore recognize revenue. It was the PM’s duty to manage any risk to on-time completion.
If the PM said a project was at risk, my next question was always, “What is your next step?” The last thing I wanted to hear was this: “I am waiting for…”
It didn’t matter what came after those words. I didn’t hear them. All I heard was “I am waiting.” Usually they were waiting for a response from a customer or to hear back from engineering or for an email reply from manufacturing or software development or whomever.
When it comes to accomplishing our goals, waiting can be a real killer. Waiting kills deadlines, revenue recognition, momentum, sales closure and much more.
It’s Not Patience, It’s Wisdom
Just to be clear, this message is not about patience. This is not about being shrewd. This is not about slowing down and taking a breath. This is about how to avoid poor planning. It’s about keeping the main goal in mind. It’s about being wise, being ready.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
In the parable of the 10 Virgins, five were wise and five were not. The five wise ones took into account possible delays. They were ready and prepared. The five unwise didn’t want to take necessary time to prepare. They didn’t consider what might happen if there was a delay. They hoped they could wing it along the way.
Waiting is Bad for Business
Great project managers, small business owners and anyone who manages elements of time for that matter, know that waiting for someone or something can be a killer. Waiting doesn’t work well in the business world.
What can we do instead? We can think ahead. We can plan on what might happen if this or that were delayed. We can make calls and ask for favors and be direct and get written commitments. We can apply gentle pressure consistently or consistent pressure gently. We press on toward the goal.
My all-time favorite question to ask anyone working toward any goal is this: “What are the top two things that could put your goal at risk?”
When we just sit and wait we are saying, “If it happens, good; if it doesn’t, oh well!” Like the unwise virgins, we will run out of time if we are not diligent. We can’t expect someone else to bail us out. It’s on us. Instead, we avoid poor planning as we prepare and think ahead.