“One's objective should be to get it right, get it quick, get it out, and get it over... your problem won't improve with age.” – Warrant Buffett.
This statement makes sense most of the time and as such people wisely advise not to procrastinate. However, in certain situations, procrastination can actually help solving problems or avoid creating new ones.
Everyone knows that procrastination does not help people or companies moving forward. In fact, by definition, procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something. Hence how could this possibly help? Most of the time, in fact, it does not help. In few cases, conversely, procrastination might help moving forward and in rare cases it can lead to an even faster or cheaper solution. Difficult to believe! You have been “fighting” procrastination since you discovered its meaning and the related impact on the developments and now you might discover that you can leverage procrastination? Yes, you can!
“It is early morning in NYC and James is working hard on a new development. Suddenly an unexpected phone call. The plant manager informs James that the production line in China has a problem and the product will be delivered late. Panic. A rush of adrenaline. The first thought of James goes to the reaction of his manager and especially the one of the CEO of the company. His career is over! James needs to act and he needs to do it fast – there is no time for procrastination!
Shortly after the call, James organizes a crisis meeting and invites the multifunctional team to discuss possible solutions. A team of fifteen people rushes in every direction, they meet and call internal and external stakeholders. Several meetings take place during the day and James desperation increases from one unsuccessful meeting to another.
It is late evening and James has not been able to find a solution yet. He decides it is time to inform his manager and the company CEO. This is James worst professional day and he believes his last day in the company. He is a good steward though hence he prepares all the needed documentation and call the meeting with his manager and company CEO. The issue is revealed and the reaction of top management is even worse than expected. James is out!
It is 8pm and in the office there are only few people still working, including top management. James telephone rings again but this time he is not there to answer. The telephone keeps ringing and finally someone decides to take that call. It is the plant manager calling from China. He and his team have been working all night on the production line. They have fixed the problem and the product will be delivered on time!
Unfortunately James is not there to hear the great news and an entire multi-functional team has wasted a full day working with internal and external stakeholders to find a solution to a not existing problem.”
Brief story to say that sometimes problems solve by themselves and procrastinating a bit might actually be more fruitful than taking immediate action. The above seems to be an extreme and unique case but if you pay attention to your business and personal life you’ll notice lots of conceptually similar cases. We need to keep moving and we need to take decisions but when facing a problem we need first to make sure it is a real problem. Procrastinating on a problem to evaluate it before taking action might hence be a good thing.
The important watch-out for people who tend to procrastinate is not to use it as an excuse for not taking decisions. The procrastinators tend not to take action or make decisions on things they don’t like, don’t know, they fear or when they do not want to be controversial. In those cases leveraging “panic” might help moving forward and overcome procrastination. Panic, in fact, is the one feeling that can help procrastinators making decisions and move forward.
This is to say that panic might help the “naturally born” procrastinators but it might be detrimental to the other people. Hence, if you are a procrastinator, try to leverage panic to move forward – conversely, never give up to panic and rush decisions when encountering problems as they might mislead you and make you take actions that are actually counterproductive. Take your time!
“There's nothing wrong with procrastination. Or is there? I'll leave it to you to decide, but only if you have the time.” - Craig Brown