Sondra was holding her head between her hands, staring directly down to the surface of her desk. I tapped the door and she looked at me over her glasses.
“Why the long face, said the bartender to the horse?” I asked.
She smiled through her temporary state of mind. “Gotta work tomorrow, Saturday,” she replied.
“Not the end of the world, what’s the matter?”
“I assigned a project, a major project to Dale on Monday. He asked when I needed it. I said ASAP. Today is Friday. He hasn’t started it and he is leaving town for the weekend.”
“So, what does ASAP mean?”
“It means it’s important and I need it right away. The client meeting is first thing Monday. Another communication breakdown.”
“Oh, it looks like a breakdown in communication,” I replied. “But the responsibility lies with you, the Manager.”
“What do you mean? I told him it was important and that I needed it as soon as possible.” Sondra had pushed herself back from the desk, arms extended.
I shook my head. “This is basic goal setting and you have committed the classic mistake. When you assign a task, any task to achieve a goal, what are the elements in that assignment?”
“Well, I tell them what I want them to do, you know, how many of whatever, and any important details.”
“And what else?”
Sondra was stumped. But in all fairness, her mind was thinking about Saturday. I am sure by now, she just wished I would go away.
“How about when you want the project completed by?” I prompted.
“Well, if it has a deadline, but if I just need it done, it’s going to take whatever time it takes.”
I shook my head. “No,” I said slowly. “Every task assignment ALWAYS has an expected completion time. The classic mistake most managers make is ignoring the importance of the expected completion time. Tell you what. You come in tomorrow, on Saturday, finish your project, that should have been finished yesterday and on Monday, we will talk about the importance of expected completion times.”