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  • Working with the non-organized

    Hi everyone,

    Reading through this forum over the past months has really helped me wrap my head around some parts of GTD, and tweak my system to a point where it works for me. However, one thing I haven't seen a lot of is how to work with those who are less organized.

    I was hoping that the forum might have some tips on working with those who are at various degrees of the organizational scale, from not too bad and a little absentminded, to the pyromaniacal fireman (always seems to be putting out the fires that they have usually started).

    This also has to do with people of various levels. GTD seems to work well on keeping up with people you can delegate to (subordinates) and with bosses to a point, with negotiating committments, but how about people on a higher level that aren't directly in your chain of command.

    In addition, how would people suggest dealing with a situation in which you are supporting a superior, but always waiting on information in which to get the tasks done, and it always seems to come in at the last minute, so their fires become yours?

    Thanks, and I look forward to some discussion on this!

  • #2
    Keep Reminding Them

    The best way to work with others, organized or not, is to keep good "Delegated" and "Waiting For" lists. Review them as often as necessary, and use them to keep following up with the folks that owe you things.

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    • #3
      And if the followups are ignored until the last minute?

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      • #4
        This is easy - but it requires a bit of courage...

        1. Change the "last minute" deadline so that you do have time to complete the next action once you've got the information.

        2. The first time that somebody gives you something after the deadline, tell them clearly and politely that they have gone back to the back of your queue. Show them the original request and the follow-ups that you have sent them. Tell them that if that had come back to you and explained there was a problem, then you could have re-negotiated the deadline, but on this occasion they have, in fact, blown it.

        Generally, people don't do this more than once...

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        • #5
          Thanks for the suggestions, Mark, they are good ones. I can see some situations they can definitely work for me in. However, how does this work when there are external, immovable deadlines, such as responses to customers, that rest on this? Does this become a cutting of the nose to spite the face type of situation?

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          • #6
            me too

            Adam, been there done that. My boss is a combination of unorganized and wayyy too busy. I use the agenda list (and also a folder of files he needs to put his eyes on) so that I can maximize face time with him or when he drops by- also to remind of commitments.

            Scott makes a real good point about WF and Delegated lists... it keeps your commitments in front of you so you can feel good about it... you can also follow up during the weekly review in order to remind.

            I have also posted about being frustrated... see my rant thread titled PEOPLE NEED THIS...

            hope this helps.

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            • #7
              Escalate, communicate

              Originally posted by AdamMiller81
              However, how does this work when there are external, immovable deadlines, such as responses to customers, that rest on this?
              It's easier when it's not your own management chain. We all hate to take career limiting actions.

              See if there is a way to communicate more widely or escalate.

              Communicate more widely: A fellow project manager who had critical overdue tasks owed by Directors and Vice Presidents started publishing a weekly list that just showed the number of overdue items each had. That kicked up the competitive spirit & peer pressure as they didn't want their peers to know they were behind. They started getting their items done.

              Escalate: After you've followed up with the person once or twice, let them know they have a certain amount of time to get it done and then you will go to their supervisor. You can communicate it as "to make sure it's prioritized correctly or to help get them the resources they need to get it done". Sometimes this will result in progress before the deadline. When it doesn't, even if it doesn't get done, no one is surprised that a customer deadline wasn't met because Person A didn't get something done. Also once you start getting the upper levels involved, they may re-negotiate with the customer or they may find someone else to get it done so they don't look bad.

              Once you've set the precendence of escalating, the reminder can start coming before the deadline.

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              • #8
                Works at home too

                My wife is the non-list, disorganized person in our family and lives off what's in her head. My daughter is in Jr. High and is seeing things with her mother fall through the cracks. With my help, she has been putting GTD principles, including WF and Follow-Up reminders, into action. She now realizes that it's up to her to make sure the other person follows through. Even short term items, like a paper that needs to be signed and returned tomorrow. Last night I heard her say "Will an hour be enough time for you to look that over and sign it?". When her mother said yes, she went to her room to continue work on her homework and added a reminder appointment in her Palm for an hour later. And, yes, she was back in an hour to collect the paper ... no, it still hadn't been signed, but it did get signed right then.

                Of course, the best part is when she says the same thing to me!

                Eric

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by AdamMiller81
                  Thanks for the suggestions, Mark, they are good ones. I can see some situations they can definitely work for me in. However, how does this work when there are external, immovable deadlines, such as responses to customers, that rest on this? Does this become a cutting of the nose to spite the face type of situation?
                  Adam, regarding the items that are responded to at the last moment... how is this happening? In other words, how does the person that you are waiting on information from know that it's the last minute?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jkgrossi
                    Adam, regarding the items that are responded to at the last moment... how is this happening? In other words, how does the person that you are waiting on information from know that it's the last minute?
                    Because they've usually decided they need my response based on their information either the next morning (if I get the info at 3:50PM) or within an hour if its at any other time of day . . .

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                    • #11
                      I had responded originally assuming that the last minute delivery of information to you for a quick turnaround was based on you knowing it was coming and them just taking their time giving it to you.

                      If it's last minute requests where you don't know it's coming, you can't be proactive the first time. However, for anything with a pattern, such as a monthly report, once you see the pattern, you can remind the person a week or a few days ahead, "hey are you going to need information for the xyz report soon? When is it due this month?" And then by reminding them it's coming and talking about when you'd like to get their input, you may be able to get a couple more days to work on it. You may be able to get the schedule for the report for the rest of the year.

                      If it's something that's not regular but is based on some other trigger, such as you always do xyz for a new customer, if you can get early notice that a contract is being negotiated or has been signed, then you can remind the person that you need their information. If it's for a customer and you don't have any way of knowing when commitments have been made, you may need to sit down with the person once or twice a week and prompt them for upcoming deliverables.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AdamMiller81
                        Thanks for the suggestions, Mark, they are good ones. I can see some situations they can definitely work for me in. However, how does this work when there are external, immovable deadlines, such as responses to customers, that rest on this? Does this become a cutting of the nose to spite the face type of situation?
                        What are the consequences of missing the deadline? And do they most affect you, or the person responsible for the information?

                        Generally, the best way to change a behavior that you don't like is to show the person that their actions have negative consequences. If you work like crazy to protect the person from the consequences, why should they change?

                        Granted, this will be tricky if the person is your boss. Still, one way to handle it might be to set a personal deadline in advance of the actual deadline. Set the personal deadline far enough in advance that you can still complete the project in time if you get the information then. Otherwise followup as you normally would.

                        If the deadline is missed, tell your boss and any other stakeholders "I will not be able to complete this project by the due date because I have not received the necessary information. What should I do?" (It might help to document your previous requests.) If at all possible, don't budge from this position. The idea is to force your boss to face the consequences of his actions, which might mean that he has to call the customer to renegotiate the deadline, or that he has to stay late to dig up the information. By setting your personal deadline early, you hopefully allow plenty of time for one of those options, and avoid creating a crisis.

                        Good luck!

                        Katherine

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                        • #13
                          I also didn't realize you were dealing with last minute requests. In that case, the best way to deal with it is to set expectations up front. "I need to do XX first. I will have the information for you by YY." If your boss thinks this request is more important than XX, that's his decision, but at least he knows the tradeoff.

                          Katherine

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