Addicted to Urgency. Project Management & Retail Marketing In Crisis Mode

I’m not very good at urgency. I’m a bit more tuned to staying in the beneficial quadrants of the matrix. And occasionally I need a lesson in urgency, but your Memorial Day sale message is not one of those times. First let’s orient ourselves with the Covey Quadrants.

covey matrix

Most of us spend time in quadrants I and III. And when we are really making headway in our lives we are less interested in III and MOST interested in II. But the ability to give up URGENCY is a learned behavior, and often a hard place to find.

How much time do you spend in quadrant III? If the activities in quadrant III are inspiration killers, then moving more time into quadrant II is a big effort. But one that pays off in productivity, and actually moving “important” items down the road of completion. All of your goal planning and inspirational/aspirational work is in II. So getting your Career Road Map together while not urgent, might be the most important tool you have in guiding your actions.

So we can see how in Project Management (PM def: leading teams of people towards a common goal with deadlines and deliverables.) the URGENCY of deadlines and meetings can move those things along by their urgent nature. And what a good project manager does is keep things moving in quadrant I without having to escalate things into URGENT mode, or CRISIS. By keeping things out of the URGENT part of the brain, most team members have access to their best creative thinking and this leads to better work on your project. When things go URGENT, everyone’s work gains a little momentum from the adrenaline, but loses much of the fluid creativity that comes from relaxed thinking. Non-urgent creative work is often referred to as FLOW. When you’re in FLOW you’re doing your best work, and often unaware (un-restrained or pressured) of time.

Okay, so now let’s look at how some retailers have become addicted to the URGENT mode of selling.
urgency of retail marketingIn today’s paper (online version) the car dealers are out in force. I guess Memorial Day is a hot day for buying cars. Um, to support our veterans? Imagine if you will, that the $10,000 off deal is only this weekend. You’d better click now. That’s the concept. Demand is high, urgency is high, click now and buy now.

And things wouldn’t be complete if my favorite tech retailer wasn’t pimping the urgency with renewed… um, urgency.

deals are always "this week only" with dell

Now, consider I’ve been getting pre-memorial day sales all week, and… Well, do you believe anything this ad shows? And if you’re really excitable they’ve even got a countdown clock on their website to show you exactly when this “limited-time” sale is over. But next week… What happens at Dell, next week?

So Dell is really ratcheting up the urgency EVERY SINGLE DAY. It gets to the point that you no longer see words like DEAL, and “Limited-time” from them. Not every sale has to be urgent. Just give us the SALE prices.

And in life I prefer to ratchet things back OUT of the URGENT mode when possible. And my aversion to urgency (maybe a character flaw at this point) may occasionally rub certain clients and colleagues the wrong way. BUT… When the actual URGENCY arrives, I hope to play it with some additional reserves of adrenaline that weren’t used up in the burn of quadrants I and III. And all I can say about quadrant IV is, avoid it like the plague. (TV falls into quadrant IV for me. Maybe Facebook and Twitter as well. Sometimes. Um… I’ll look at that.)

My maxim: Stay not-urgent and find more time and focus for the things that are important. And don’t buy into the drama. It might just be someone else’s quadrant III.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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