Place Ghantoos

No time for poetry, this is URGENT!!!

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Photo credit: António Segurado under licence CC BY-NC 3.0

Not long ago, poets would visit the cafés to sing and recite poetry. There were no radios. Most of the people were illiterate. They were closer to nature; they had time. Today, many things have changed for the better. But we’ve lost track of time, let alone nature.

Here I am, in front of my computer. My headphones isolate me from my surrounding open space. I am in a Chopin mood today. The piano helps me relax and let go. I can visualize every bit of detail I need in order to process my tasks. The datasets are here. My brain is fully concentrated. I am diving in my work. I am getting shit done. I can’t, but love this moment. I feel in tune with myself, with my mind and with my job. Then…

I have a look at my emails. “You never know…”. I have received 12 new emails. Two of them have “URGENT” written in capital letters followed by three exclamation points. Forget about whatever it is you are doing. Empty your mind, and concentrate on their content. It must be “URGENT!!!”.

The first email is actually just a reminder for tonight’s work party. Amuse-bouche, mixed with beers and fresh cocktails. I start thinking about why is there always alcohol in these meetups? Are we this desperate we can’t get along together without getting drunk?

Stop this thought! I need to deal with the urgency before the party starts. Or else… Let me read the second urgent email.

The second email: “Hey team! I just got off the phone with XXX. The customer is expecting us to deliver next week. We simply can’t miss this due date. It is impossible to be late, due to this account being very strategic. I am counting on you! All is in your court. BR”. Not even a “best regards” as if they really meant it.

Why are we suddenly late? Who said we were able to deliver by next week? I dig into my emails, we had said earlier that week it was impossible to deliver anything. We have no more “resources”, human or not. Therefore, I’ll just answer that we need to be patient and explain to the customer that they will need to be patient too. We are unfortunately in a pickle, and need to take some time to ensure delivering quality. And thus I do so.

A couple of minutes later, I get two replies, from two different people, each one adding a bunch of people in Cc. We’re about 15-20 people in the email exchange now, including the upper management. Now this looks much more “URGENT!!!”. The conclusion is that, we have to find a way to deliver whatever the customer was promised. The ball is in our team’s court..

…but we have no players in this court. We’ll have to remove some players from different courts, taking the risk of disappointing other customers.

And so the “urgency magic” begins. The trick is that, by the time the other customers react to the sudden slow pace, we’ll have put out the fire of the “URGENT!!!” email. Then we will be ready to move the players around, by shifting them to another urgent project. The urgency ball is rolling. Never will it stop, unless…

I am wearing my headphones. The sound of the Sufi meditation melodies are here to remind me that I should take my time. My messenger pops-up: “Could you join this conference number? We’re already online.”. And so I do. The music isn’t enough anymore for I have been sucked into urgency, the time-extinguisher. How did we end up here?

Stop this thought! Let us find a quick solution to stop the fire from spreading. It’s a good thing we have a party tonight. All this alcohol might help me escape this unwanted pressure I’m getting.

Infinite loop.

The urgency ball is rolling. Never will it stop, unless we choose to stop ourselves, to look behind us and to start the learning process.

Someone posted an interesting statement on one of the many social networks I follow. “The best way to demotivate and lose top performers is to reward mediocrity in an attempt to maintain status quo” by Jameson St. Claire (I’m not sure this guy even exists). While this is very true, I would rephrase it a little bit, saying: “One of the best way to demotivate and lose top performers, is to cultivate an environment of escalation and urgency, pushing your top performers to perform quickly and poorly”. Sorry mister Jameson, wherever you are!

The work party has started. I realize I had put some thoughts on hold, and stop this thought. I’ll take the time some other day. I pour myself a glass of Jameson, and imagine what poetry must have felt like. I lose myself in time.

The clock strikes seven. I wake up and read my emails.

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