Prevarication and procrastination


This is the first in a series of posts that will be derived from my experiences in business over the past seven or so years. The subjects come from observations made from my daily work-in-progress notes, which I’ve been re-reading over the past few weeks. (I use the classic Moleskine notebooks, which at least look nice lined up on my bookshelf.)

Being in public relations and corporate communication has placed me close to the centre of gravity of much that was going on, and most of the time I was interacting in some way or another, not just observing. I think this characteristic of being across a multitude of corporate functions marks out public relations as being particularly beneficial to organisations.

I was intrigued about whether themes, mistakes, successes and corporate rhythms would recur. My observations are that many do.

A note of comfort for those who have worked with me over this period: these posts have no detail in them that identify where I’ve worked, or with whom, nor do they follow any particular chronological order. If you spot something familiar, well done, but it will be coincidental. And thank you to everyone I’ve worked with for the opportunity to do so.

Here goes: first stop, prevarication and procrastination.

Prevarication and procrastination are the evil Tweedledum and Tweedledee of business. More than any other behavioural trait, they get in the way of decisions, and of delivering something.

They get in the way of hiring, product development, marketing and public relations programmes, and more. And they are also dangerous because they can prompt us to leap into action too early (mea culpa), which often leads to blood on the carpet and repentance at leisure (too much leisure if you leap too far, too early).

Prevarication and procrastination are not the same as careful reflection, planning, and strategy development.

And they are not the same as reacting to new circumstances.

In fact, all of these business tools and techniques are needed for success, and all help keep Tweedledum and Tweedledee in check.

What mustn’t happen, though, is for decisions to be revoked, for action to be stalled, for unnecessary approvals to be sought, for consensus to be sought from too many for too long.

And communications play a pivotal role in setting this balance, because of course the right level of consensus and the right approvals are required.

The plans need to be clearly shared through the right channels, and lots of emails are not the right channels.

Create and publicise a tactical intranet page that builds consensus through sharing.

Create and provide the right mechanisms that help you update those who ought to know, have to know, and want to know.

Create and provide a comments section that gathers feedback, and appoint someone to monitor and respond to this feedback quickly and often.

Don’t demote communications to a quick email or an endless round of meetings. Use communications to help manage the project, manage the consensus, and kill procrastination and prevarication.

About alansmithoz

Head of Strategic Business Communications at Australian social analytics technology company Digivizer, with a background in corporate public relations and marketing. I do what I do because I believe communications can make a difference.
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2 Responses to Prevarication and procrastination

  1. Adrianne says:

    Totally with you on the frustrations of having to seek unnecessary approvals and consensus… good ideas have a limited lifespan, especially in PR!

    • alansmithoz says:

      I think it’s getting those that count that matters, and not falling into the trap of assuming that seeking both is progress when it isn’t.
      Of course, each scenario and project is unique, but I think it’s also the case that, over time, as trust builds, the consensus builds and the approvals become fewer and quicker.
      Looking back through my notes, I can see I certainly mistook trudging round getting approvals for progress when it certainly was not.

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