Friday, February 22, 2008

Defining "Prompt"

The question came up the other day of what constitutes a prompt response to a problem.

If the matter is important but not urgent, then starting the response process within a couple of weeks may be acceptable.

If the matter is urgent and important then responding within a day may be fine.

But if there is a safety or a major, long-term, and possibly irreversible, threat, then responding in an hour may be too long.

It's important to distinguish between these areas for two reasons: You don't want to be too late in dealing with a lethal threat and you don't want to rush a decision on a matter that is neither lethal nor demanding immediate attention. There is a huge difference between a situation that requires "action now" - as Churchill used to describe many of his directives during the Second World War - and ones where we would be better advised to remember former Secretary of State George P. Schultz's admonition to "Don't just do something, stand there."


Jeff said...

Sort of like trying to define "ASAP'
When someone asks me for a design, or estimate, my final question is when do you need it. If they say "ASAP", I ask them to give me a date.
I'd rather have a goal than an open ended commitment...

Michael Wade said...


Absolutely. I've seen people who define ASAP as "In a month or two."