Procrastination Causes Sour Notes!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about procrastination: I feel as though I am spending 50% of my efforts on follow through due to no response–a huge waste of time.

Please help me with a communication problem. I am a manager for promotion and outreach in the music department at a university. My responsibility includes scheduling campus performances and planning music tours for ensemble groups. After three years of trying to figure out how to light a fire under procrastinators, I am ready to give up. I send e-mails, I leave voice mails, and I put documentation in their office mailbox asking for their instructions or decision that impacts an upcoming performance or tour. I feel as though I am spending 50% of my efforts on follow through due to no response–a huge waste of time.

Part of me wants to just say that I don’t care if the performance or tour goes wrong or is unacceptable, but that’s not the way I do things. As always, this person comes running in last minute wanting such and such to happen, then everyone has to drop everything for it to get done on time. I have gone to my boss and he just listens and promises nothing. There is much drama surrounding this person and it seems that she/he is always running behind and faulting family issues or workload as an excuse. Please give me some suggestions as to how I can effectively communicate my frustration at his/her lack of communication. Are there classes or do’s/don’ts that teach how to elicit a response?Please don’t say to just let the things slip through the cracks or not get done because ultimately it is the student(s) who suffer. Please help! My hands are tied!

Signed, Don’t Want Sour Notes

Dear┬áDon’t Want Sour Notes:

Promotion and outreach are the end goals of your job. Your management job is goforing, and that means planning and coordinating. Telling your boss that so and so did not respond and made excuses for his/her procrastination has gotten you no help. In short, you have little to no authority to either reward those who are prompt and cooperative or punish and shame those who put off and make excuses. Since you have not specified what these particular tasks are that are put off, from here it impossible to understand the causes of the procrastination. There may be many reasons as well as character flaws.

You ask: How can you do your job when some of those responsible are not responsible? Is it simply a matter of communication skills? No. It is a matter of organizational commitment, but there are some principles of communication that might help you in your gofor it role.

*Emails, memos, notes left in offices and voice mail are impersonal, even if hand written.

*Written plus oral channels packs double power.

*Repetition adds persuasive power.

*Planning face to face of events with those whose duties are essential enhances psychological ownership.

*Charting critical paths to end results and making visible that must do what by what dates improves likelihood of fulfillment of one’s responsibilities.

*Before skull sessions with those who must plan/work together to make something happen and post event debriefing are essential to teamwork.

*The key question to transforming a work group to a team that is addressed regularly is: What have we been doing well and what might we do to improve the quality of our working together?

*Response or lack of response hinge on one’s power to reward or punish and lacking such power they hinge on one’s working relationship and the value seen in the assignment.

*Public commitment increases follow through.

Can you weave these communication principles into a modus operandi? Or at least pilot some of them in communicating about several events, such as posting a plan on the office wall picturing the end event and the step by step path that leads to pulling that off indicating with who does what when? It may be that your job is to be a nag, a polite, and persistent one, just as it is some folk’s job to deal with trouble that could have been avoided. And if you don’t enjoy that, you may have to make that abundantly clear to your boss and colleagues. Then if you do not get cooperation, change to a job you can love.

Working together with hands, head, and hearts takes and makes big WEGOS.

Follow Up: Thank you . . . this is excellent advice! You reminded me that ultimately I am responsible for executing a clear promotion plan with deadlines. I will contact the directors to determine a monthly meeting date workable for everyone. The first meeting will be to implement a process for meeting deadlines. Accountability issues may improve when discussed with fellow colleagues present. I will keep in mind that effective communication is a continuing study, and will expect cooperation. I have just completed a 3-year study and evaluation on our outreach/tours based mainly on student evaluations and audience attendance — this will be the focus of our first meeting to see, as you put it, “what have we been doing well and what might we do to improve the quality of our working together.” Your advice was valuable and much appreciated! Regards, I am no longer ready to give up!

More Advice: Feel free to contact us again. I predict that you will be the spur that makes team thinking possible. Buy in comes from genuine collaboration in planning and the end product of excitement–of seeing an audience enjoy what your department has to share.

William Gorden