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Time Management Worst Practice: Management by Crisis

Management by crisis is a phrase used to describe the common problem of allowing unexpected events, interruptions, problems, or emergencies to dictate your priorities and actions.

Effective crisis management is an important best practice; it is an essential skill of effective time managers because unexpected things do happen in every project. Sometimes we do need to react quickly to a crisis and contain it before it does more damage. The problem comes when crisis management becomes the routine rather than the exception. If you spend more of your time putting out fires than doing your work, you are managing by crisis.

When crisis management becomes the routine, it can easily lead to urgency addiction. People that are addicted to urgency enjoy putting out fires, they like stepping in and solving problems, and their bosses often reward them for doing so. They have no incentive to avoid or prevent the fires because they get a payoff every time they put one out.

To eliminate the worst practice of management by crisis you need to take two important steps. First, you must distinguish between a real crisis, which is something important that requires your immediate attention, and other lesser problems, events, or interruptions that do not qualify as a true crisis.

The second key step is to realize that when crisis management becomes the routine rather than the exception, its usually pointing to a more fundamental problem that needs to be solved. There is an old Chinese proverb that says: "The superior doctor prevents sickness. The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness. The inferior doctor treats sickness." Don't just treat the symptoms of the latest crisis, cure the underlying disease and prevent it from recurring.

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