Project Management

Wait A Minute

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Would we ask the New York Philharmonic to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony faster, or to play the Ninth Symphony and the Seventh Symphony at the same time — you know, to be more productive? No, of course not.

But how often are project teams expected to juggle multiple roles and assignments, and to do so in unrealistic timeframes? 

Doing things faster — and often at the same time — has become a way of life for working professionals (not to mention moms, students, and anyone else trying to cope with modern life). Project managers and their team members are no exception.

There you are, responding to dozens of emails before 8 a.m., simultaneously fielding random calls, updating information for three projects, and on your way to a status meeting, which you will leave early to attend another meeting about something else, while having a conversation in the hallway … deep breath, you are truly a mover and shaker. Or maybe you’re just moving and shaking?

In the digital age, we're taking productivity and efficiency to new levels, but it’s not always a badge of honor. At the least, we need to consider what productivity really means. It seems "faster" or "leaner" are the favored definition these days. I'm afraid that outlook is leading to a lot of high-speed crashes.

We’re losing touch with equally important factors like craft, care, culture and quality — never mind the value of finding pride in our work.

Tim Jackson, a professor at the University of Surrey and author of Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, says there are many work sectors where “chasing productivity doesn’t make sense at all,” and that “certain kinds of tasks rely inherently on the allocation of people’s time and attention.” Attention!

Jackson cites a number of examples: teachers teaching ever bigger classes at the expense of actually educating students ... nurses stretched to the breaking point who are losing empathy for their patients. To take his point further, he writes, “What would be gained by asking the New York Philharmonic to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony faster and faster each year?”

To that question, I’ll add: And what is to be gained by asking project teams to hurry up and deliver “results” that do not, in the end, deliver real value? "Fail fast" is one thing. Fail because you're rushing for no good reason is quite another.

More studies show plainly that this 24/7 full-throttle approach to work (and to life) is destructive and diminishing — to mental and physical well-being, and to our ability to be strategic and innovate.

In the sound and fury of this "faster, faster" management/economic model, we need to mix in a few “wait a minute” moments to question all this hyper-productivity. Because doing more with less, or doing it faster, is often just doing it worse. And who has time for that?

Posted on: May 06, 2019 04:20 PM | Permalink

Comments (16)

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"leading to a lot of high-speed crashes". Very interesting comparision! Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for taking the time to point this out. These points are all critical to remember. Everyone pushes to do more and more simultaneous tasks, when the fact is that multi-tasking has never been proven to be effective.

This is an excellent blog. Thank you for it. I particularly like the part where you say 'Because doing more with less, or doing it faster, is often just doing it worse. And who has time for that?'

Thank you for the eloquent problem statement. Solutions?

I'd bet a lot of the motivation is, ironically, simplicity. Easier to have the option of responding right then and there, over waiting and having a gigantic pile of work to sort through. Its twofold. With greater accessibility comes increased output to keep up with. Another aspect is greater accessibility promotes smaller bites of work as opposed to sorting through essays to pick out what is required.

Despite my little to no interest in music, the opening of the blog made me curious. Sometime back I read another blog on the attitude of a PM. I have seen project managers exactly the way described here - moving and shaking. However, I have also seen movers and shakers. Unfortunately, they not in high numbers. Isn't it the attitude of the PM matters here? One PM can say no to so many parallel tasks and the other take orders and carry out these tasks. Also, isn't "delegation" can play an important role in controlling one work?

It's a great article describing "doing faster" management model and posing for an aswer.


Interesting to read your post describing our daily works. You have rightly pitched how faster and faster daily routine diminishes our innovative and strategic ability and same time making us mentally and physically exhausted. Under this strained situation "Wait a minute" suggestions made by you is very relevant and helpful. Thank you Aaron!!

Well done, Aaron Sir. I wish this blog to go viral somehow. Thank you!

Thank you, Aaron. I was struggling with this very issue today - funny how it happens that something lands in your lap just when you need it. In my case, there are days when I feel like 4 symphonies are playing at once and that is when I walk around the block, do some stretches, find a way to relax and refocus. Sounds like this is a common struggle and often it boils down to money being the factor that pushes more to be accomplished. I often push back against that because it can cost more when things move too quickly and issues are not addressed adequately.

Thank you for sharing! These are points many PMs need to stop and think about, I'm sure!

I second your thoughts.

Great advice - how do you make sure everyone remembers it at times of stress?

"We’re losing touch with equally important factors like craft, care, culture and quality — never mind the value of finding pride in our work." I would also add that in our fast paced world (both professionally and personally) we are losing the ability to simply listen to others and really be present with them. It's not easy to make deep connections when your eyes are constantly moving to your phone to check messages or your watching the clock because you have a meeting to get to.

Interesting perspective thank you for the insights!

Dear Aaron
Interesting perspective on the topic: "Wait A Minute?"
Thanks for sharing

Important point to remember:
"More studies clearly show that this 24/7 approach to work (and life) is destructive and diminishing - to physical and mental well-being and our ability to be strategic and innovate."

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"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."

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