First a brief apology (to both readers who actually noticed) for the month-plus long hiatus. Despite appearances to the contrary I do actually have to work sometimes and occasionally that work gets in the way of more interesting matters such as this little piffle on the inter-webs. Compound that with 21 days of travel and a quasi-busy social calendar and someone like me who already has the attention span of a goldfish will let weeks go by before even thinking about writing an update.
And that is actually not a bad segue into what I really wanted to write about this morning. As yet another month end goes by and for at least one of my big corporate partners the books were closed on the fiscal year, I brace myself for another round of Jack-Welch-inspired business process improvement. We have all had those moments at the end of the month when we realized “Oh shit! I completely forgot to file that claim that has to be processed THIS month!” or “Oops! Looks like that credit memo won’t be counted in the year-end numbers after all!”
Of course middle management who despises these last-minute rush requests, the accompanying high tension emails, and anything else that incites emotion or causes adrenaline levels to increase above that of your average bradypus variegatus, feels the need to exert their feeble powers of managerial sway to whip all us slackers into shape. The week or so of panicked emails, subtle blame shifting (in preparation for the possibility of failure), and forced overtime are all the excuse they need to point out our gross inefficiencies as an organization and demand we shape up lest the same fate befalls us at the end of the next month… or quarter… or fiscal year. On the surface it seems sensible enough – rather than induce panic in the masses each time we hit an accounting milestone and realize yet again that sneaky calendar has crept up on us with our proverbial pants around our ankles, it does seem logical that we should engage in some orderly process that allows us to avoid the rush and the inherent risk of error.
Bullfrogs I say. Giant heaped steaming mounds of bullfrogs.
Panic is GOOD! That adrenaline rush of nearly missed deadline reminds us we are alive! I say there is a greater risk of error when you DON’T feel like your ass in on the line. When everything is reduced to a neat orderly rote process eventually your brain will switch off from the sheer monotony of the work. You will crave the day that facilities comes around to touch up the nicks and scratches in the walls for the comparative thrill of watching paint dry. This is when the mistakes will occur. Let’s face it, are you more likely to drive your sensible mid priced car into a ditch when you’ve been driving in a straight line late at night with little to occupy your increasingly drowsy mind or when you have just woken up and realized you need to be across town for a meeting with your boss and a key customer in twenty minutes?
Our bodies and brains are wired to perform their best when the fear of failure looms largest. Who among us hasn’t aced a test you only crammed for the night before, dazzled a client with a brilliant presentation you whipped up on the flight in that morning, or pulled a very respectable C- on a paper you wrote in a caffeine fueled frenzy in study hall so recently the ink is still damp. Adrenaline is our friend, and to try to avoid it is to ignore one of our greatest assets. Just as a burst of adrenaline can give a ten year old boy the strength to lift of car off his trapped father, so too can adrenaline help you process 14 hours worth of paperwork in a single afternoon in order to ensure you aren’t unemployed the next Monday.
I think it should also be pointed out that like any other living thing a company will find its own pace. If you begin artificially manipulating that pace to smooth out a jagged process it can only come at the expense of other work. What am I going to NOT be doing if I’m now supposed to be reconciling credit requests ten days before the end of quarter? It turns into a game of corporate Whack-A-Mole.
So I say let the mania run… let the pressure build… let us do what we do best! We know how to manage our time, up to and including those days at the end of the month when we freak out. Don’t panic about the panic!
Now if you don’t mind I have some important work I need to get to most urgently…