Procrastination Station

All aboard you five-minute managers! The train is leaving on track four. Destination? Procrastination Station. Even though you’re neither the conductor nor the engineer, it’s your responsibility to see to it that the train arrives on time. It’s tough always riding in the baggage car or caboose. Sorry, the dining car and first class accommodations are reserved for the elites.

Let’s see how this timetable works:

It’s fifteen minutes before the big meeting. Your boss hands you a report and asks you to prepare comments on it. Of course the report sat on his desk for two days before the meeting. He never got around to giving it to you earlier. You don’t even have enough to read it let alone comment on it. Now you have to scramble and will be ill prepared for the meeting. It really doesn’t matter. By now you should expect to be looked upon as a dolt anyway.

Headquarters just put out a schedule for next year’s budget. To save time, they’ve abbreviated a lot of the detailed requirements but set a very aggressive and firm due date for delivery of the first go around. Headquarters explanation is that they just want a feel for the numbers. Questions and adjustments will be passed down after top-level review. You’d think that would be hailed as a real step in the right direction. No dice! Division management wants it as detailed as possible so they can pick it apart in true picayunish fashion BEFORE it goes to HQ. They fool around and fool around until the very last minute. Then bingo, you’re on the hook for delivery. Did anyone consider your lead-time to prepare the data? I think not – even you mentioned it on numerous occasions. Good luck this weekend trying to get everything summarized and downloaded to meet HQ’s schedule!

Sue is a cash application clerk and processes a lot of transactions. Some are pretty complicated. No one else in the office knows her procedures or the cash application system. You work for a “lean” company after all and having a back up for Sue would be an expensive luxury. Sue announces that she will be leaving in 60 days and moving out of the country. What a nice gesture! A 60-day notice. You prepare all of the paperwork and request a replacement. The quicker, the better. There’s a lot to learn and you’d like the transition to be as seamless as possible. You wait and wait and wait for a response. You even begin to plead and give notice that if Sue leaves without replacement, the job cannot get done. Time is running out and you can’t seem to get anyone off the dime. It’s Sue’s last day and you’re throwing her a little going away luncheon. Here comes the boss who gives his approval for the replacement while munching down a piece of chocolate cake. How about adding just a couple of more hours to your workday for a few weeks (or months) to figure it all out, interview, hire and train a new clerk?

The big shots are away at the “secret” two day meeting. You sense something’s up. You have a vacation scheduled for next week. Your holiday was scheduled and approved six months ago. You’re leaving on Saturday morning. You’ve planned out everything so that operations run smoothly while you’re gone. Wednesday rolls around and the bigwigs return. It’s “all quiet on the western front.” Or so you thought! Friday morning dawns and your boss inundates you with requests for information and reports that are needed by Monday. You remind him of your pending holiday and your travel schedule. His response, “This is important! Couldn’t you……?” Bon Voyage!

Of course you have every right to go ballistic and blow a steam valve. You wouldn’t pull any of these stunts on your staff. You try to plan ahead and be proactive. No one ever accused your superiors of doing that. They’re too busy with other things. Your protests will be countered with YOUR need to be more flexible. Even if you recount your warnings and drag out all of the memos and requests, you’ll probably just be told that YOU should have been more assertive and forceful. You’ve been derailed again. Can’t you shovel coal any faster?

Wouldn’t you just love to pull the emergency cord or get off at the next stop?


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