Crisis management

We are good at crisis management. The closer the deadline the harder we work trying to meet it in the end. I have often been in situations whereby we met the deadline only minutes before it expired. I observe this in submission of reports, documents, proposals, delivery of goods and services but also in construction and social events like organising weddings for example. Just the other day I saw how workers at a construction site managed to get everything ready only half an hour before the official opening. Indeed, weddings are planned long in advance but the actual logistics are often only managed the very same day of the happy occasion.

Indeed, some of us are very good at managing people and logistics when the pressure is on and when the temperatures are rising, which is a positive skill. However, every strength has its pitfall. When overdoing something, there will always be a downside. Relying too much on our ability to deal with urgent issues we tend to ignore longer term planning which could help us avoid the last minute crisis in the first place. And so our strength becomes also our weakness which is proactive planning and focusing more on important things rather than urgent things.

One consequence of this is of course that we run the risk of disappointing our customers. As a client I have lost confidence myself in getting the services in time that I agreed to pay for and will not go back to the same provider again. One other reason at play is that we take on too many assignments at a time. I do understand of course that everybody is trying to make ends meet and that in trying to achieve that takes on as many jobs at a time as possible. Business may be slow next month after all and the school fees for the children and the house rent need to be paid. In time, mind you.

The point is of course that while making short term gains, confidence and thus business will be lost. As a result, more assignments will be taken on and not completed in time, resulting in more loss of confidence and business. In the end the clients will turn their back on us and go somewhere else and they can’t be blamed. The client simply wants value for money, no excuses.

So whether we are in manufacturing, consulting, selling, importing, exporting, printing, anything for that matter, we better keep our promises. So what can we do to meet our deadlines and gain confidence and have more sales instead? Here are a few suggestions.

Whenever you take on an assignment you better treat the deadline seriously and get cracking immediately. Before saying yes to a new assignment check all current assignments and how much time they need. Also assess whether you can give all it takes to complete the assignment. This is important because nobody is interested in an average or substandard quality of work.

Next, check how much time you will be able to allot for the new project. Based on these factors you can estimate and discuss how much and how soon you will be able to deliver. Remember it is always better to tone down your promises but actually deliver beyond expectations. This strategy will work to your favour rather than doing the reverse. Be careful not to overestimate your abilities and make the mistake of taking more work than you can tackle. Being over ambitious can be dangerous so take a practical view of the time and resources you have before making commitments.

Next, once you agreed on the assignment, begin working on it and set your mind to it. This will motivate you to do it in time and it will give you a head start. On the contrary, if you delay and keep things pending till the last minute, you will be subjecting yourself to unnecessary stress and last minute work. And last minute work may not be the best and will affect the quality of the outcome.

Also keep checking on your progress on a daily basis to ensure no last minute surprises. Though you may get an extension of the deadline, this is not something to bank on.

If you have too many deadlines to meet at the same time though, you may have to put in extra hours. Don’t panic though. Instead put in what you can during each day and get help when you need it from capable colleagues.

Finally, when you have completed the assignment give it a thorough and final quality check and apply the finishing touches that will make it top quality. If you work with a well thought out plan of action whenever you have to meet a deadline, you will find the going easy. Instead of a threat a deadline may thus be turned into an opportunity to prove that you are trustworthy to deliver quality work and in time.

It has been my experience that once you build such a reputation, clients will keep coming back and ask you for a next assignment, which is much more rewarding than having to find new clients all the time, who will be disappointed again sooner than later, because you have again not been able to deliver.