Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine

15th January 2013

Getting communication right is hard enough, without leaving it until the last minute. All that needless stress, rushing about, frantic late-night working…

And this becomes even more annoying when someone else’s bad planning has forced this stress on you.

So what can you do? A few options are:-

  • Just accept it, and put the coffee on… it’ll be a long night
  • Be nice but firm: “I want to help, but there’s not enough time for me to do everything you’ve asked. What are the key priorities you’d like me to focus on?”
  • Be abrupt, knowing they’ll plan better next time: “I’m sorry but I can’t help this time. There’s too little time. Next time, give me at least a week’s notice”
  • Seek alternatives: “We’re too short of time to do everything you want. What could we do instead, to get the message across?”

Which of these four is best? Well, it depends on the situation and who’s asking for your help. As always, when choosing your response, remember “first, do no harm” – to you and to them.

But: with communication, what we hate, we often do (for example, when you’re in an audience, you might hate presenters using wordy slides. But when you’re the presenter, you might use wordy slides, to prompt you)

So, just as bad planning on someone else’s part doesn’t constitute an emergency for you, bad planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency for them.

To avoid imposing unnecessary stress on others, you could do some/all of:

  • Use three diary entries (for preparation, delivery and follow-up) not just one (delivery)
  • Forewarn others you’ll need their help in x days time, and schedule it in both your diaries
  • Identify when you planned things well in the past, and copy what you did
  • Identify when you didn’t plan well, and learn from that

Everyone can make a mistake with planning. But, if you only do so once, it’s not a mistake, it’s learning. It’s when people keep doing it that it becomes a mistake.

Action point

Preview your diary. What big communications are coming up? Have you told your relevant colleagues – and your diary (!) – about the preparation and follow up that’s needed?

Also, if someone frequently gives you too little time because of their bad planning, decide in advance how you’ll respond next time. If you don’t, you’ll almost definitely repeat what you do every other time.

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