While working with a client on managing an overwhelming workload, we explored ways to cut fire fighting. When I'm brought in, I look at two aspects: Reaction and Prevention. Reaction is symptomatic treatment of an acute situation. In this case we cover how to best manage the current reality - setting up workflow systems, for example. This provides relief and some breathing room. Then we cover prevention - reducing the causes of the (often chronic) condition. One dimension I bring up is the managing of expectations. Here are a few examples:
- Do you have a response time policy? Is a 24 hour one for email possible? Related: Depressurize your email with a 24 hour response time and What's your maximum response time?
- Are you expecting a certain outcome in a ... plan, project, conversation, goal, or relationship? This will definitely lead to suffering (a Think, Try, Learn principle).
- Have you noticed that good phone customer service tells you how long to expect waiting, when you're put on hold, and what's the plan ("I'm transferring you to...") Do you do this for others?
- Are your expectations of what you can personally accomplish realistic? How about others'?
- Do you do "blue sky" planning, say for travel? "Expect delays" isn't bad advice!
I'm curious: What expectations have you created in the minds of your clients, coworkers, and yourself? How were those created? Implicitly?