We often fall into the urgent trap, thinking that something that’s just come up is the most important thing in the world, and we need to drop everything to pick it up.
That means we end up stacking up lots of suddenly urgent things. Slicing our time between many of them and not actually really making major progress on any. Small amounts of progress on lots of different things is totally worthless.
In contrast, when we are smoothly working through things, we get fast. There are fewer distractions or interruptions, product increments are done and we move on to the next.
We get smooth by going more slowly. Take the time to look at the requests that come in or the issues that are raised. What’s the true impact? Is it really worth dropping everything to pick it up. How much does it cost to stop doing what we were doing, and what’s the cost of delaying the activities we had going on.
Urgent is easy, it’s cheap calories and high fives all round when whatever it is it gets solved.
To balance it, you have to recognise the cost of doing that urgent thing, not just enjoy the sugar rush of jumping on it straight away.
You need to broadcast the costs and impacts of going urgent, managing the expectations of the stakeholder who wants this “Right Now!” and not forgetting the stakeholder who was promised major changes on a longer timeline.
If it’s really urgent and important, then you need to suck up the costs and distractions. If it’s not, then use your usual prioritisation methods to slot this new request in, and keep smoothly delivering valuable outcomes.
If you can stay slow rather than rushing from urgent fire to fire, then you stay smooth and you get more big things done. That’s when real change happens.