Image for  "Do you get stressed by other people’s lack of planning?"

Do you get stressed by other people’s lack of planning?

A nice lunch awaited

Ring – Riiiiing! The ringing sound of the telephone could be heard through the stone staircase. It was an exhorting tone that echoed.

Christian and I were just heading downstairs for an extra good lunch. We had been working together for a long time. My mission was to help them develop and install a quality monitoring tool. Now we had just put the creation into operation and we were both satisfied. Lunch was coming up and we were going to celebrate with something extra tasty on the menu.

– Wait, said Christian, I think it’s my phone ringing. Should I take it at face value? He hesitated in mid-step.

– It can probably wait until after lunch, I said, both hungry and considering that the restaurant fills up quickly at this time just after 12 o’clock.

– ‘No, I think I’ll go back and answer it,’ he said, turning to go back to his room.

I stayed on the stairs and waited while Christian took the call. After a while he came out looking worried.

– ‘I don’t know if I’ll have time for lunch today,’ he said.

– It was the quality manager of the group who called. He is having a management group meeting in the Executive Committee now at 1 pm and he wants material from me before that.

Christian and I were standing on the stairs discussing how he should respond to this. The group quality manager and the group management team, both of which are quite loud if you are hierarchically inclined. So maybe it would be best if he skipped lunch anyway and set up and got the requested materials?

Some have put it in system

This was quite a few years ago and I have carried that event with me ever since. What is it that causes some people’s lack of planning to spread chaos and stress to others around the organization? Sure, it happens to all of us from time to time that we miss things and need emergency assistance.

But some have put it into a system.

They know they can always get help. These “some” are preferably some level up in the hierarchy, because then they know that they can directly or indirectly order emergency assistance. And as long as co-workers around play along and step up to cover the person’s lack of planning skills, it works.

It’s a bit like there’s not really a need to be structured and plan, because you know there’s always emergency help available. It’s easier for others to step in quickly when needed than for me to have to take responsibility and plan.

This approach could work in organisations where subordinates were naturally expected to cover and support the manager when needed. The hierarchy was clear and so were the consequences for not being a “team player”.

But now we are increasingly moving towards flatter organisations and operations that are more and more process-oriented. As a result, the skills of employees, with their accompanying responsibilities and powers, are constantly increasing. Delivering value to customers, whatever you call them, is more important than pleasing the boss.

Focusing on our value streams gives us a useful injection of energy to take control of our work and make sure we are doing the right things, in the right way, for the right cause.

It was lunch anyway…sort of

Christian and I continued to the restaurant despite the fact that it took him a while. He was conspicuously absent at our lunch as he pondered how to cobble together material that would still save the Group Quality Manager in his presentation at the Management Group meeting.

A little sad at our celebration, but at the same time the lunch gave Christian the opportunity to think through what and how he would compile the information in the best possible way. So it turned out well in the end anyway. Perhaps most of all for the group’s quality manager, who was once again rescued from a self-chosen situation of poor planning.

A small picture that you can use to point out the message.


So remember; don’t be one to cause chaos and stress to others because of your lack of planning. Also make sure you don’t become a victim of other people’s lack of planning. Stop and point out the need for both planning and anticipation, and you will of course be able to help in the best possible way.

Do you have a colleague who fits the description of poor planning, which in turn spills over onto you? How do you respond?

Please do get back to us with your experience, it’s always great to hear yours.

I wish you a stress-free and controlled week,