How to Deal with Procrastination

“I am trying to promote this team member, Rachel, into a new role,” Janice explained. “But she seems to be dragging her feet.”

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I think she wants the position, appears interested and excited. But you told me that I could not promote someone without clear evidence of potential. So I have been giving her longer time span projects than she has in her current role. In the delegation meeting, she is very responsive, but she never gets started.”

“What do you mean, never gets started?” I wanted clarification.

“Part of the delegation meeting, I describe the project, the vision of what it looks like when finished, including very specific performance standards of quality and deadline. I asked her to write out a step-by-step plan so we can discuss her approach to the project. That was last week. Nothing. She is dragging her feet.”

“How long is the project?”

“Six weeks. Six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to complete the project. I set a very specific deadline, but, now, that’s five weeks from now. She might still be able to get the project completed, but likely now, it will cost some overtime.”

“What do you think is going on?” I pressed.

“She is good at three week assignments. Now that you mention it, every long project she works on, takes about three weeks. Even four week projects. She procrastinates, says she works well under pressure. She’s right, she will stay late, come in early. I like her dedication, but sometimes coming in early doesn’t solve the problem of a long term project.”

“How so?”

“If you burn a week on a four week project, you can come in early, make up some time, but if there is a four week lead time on material, the project will be a week late. There will be blaming behavior, but it’s still a four week lead time for material.”

“What do you think the procrastination means?”

“I think it is an indication of capability,” Janice thought out loud. “I know you tell me to focus on the work, that capability is all about the work. If the target completion time of the project is further out than three weeks, Rachel underperforms to the deadline. It’s always a last minute scramble and something falls through the cracks.”

“So, what are you going to do, as her manager?”

“It’s a good thing we have three week projects. And for longer projects, I will have to break down some interim milestones. It means I will have to manage the longer time span elements. In the short run, that is workable. In the long run, I may have to make a different move.”
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