How often, when you’re already busy, has soemobe walked up to your desk and said “can you just do <xyz> please?”
The word “just” implies so much. the implication is that what you’re being asked to do is a small amount of work, that it won’t take long and that it won’t affect the other jobs you’re trying to get done.
These assumptions belong solely to the person who is doing the asking and it straight away leads to a defensive response. If the response is that you’re too busy or that it will take too long the requestor has already implied that this is a failing on your part simply by using thr word “just”.
Now I will admit to be guilty saying “just” in exactly that context on a number of occasions and it’s only now that I’ve started to examine the repercussions a little more.
Many of you are probably thinking that you use that word all the time and don’t mean anyting by it but, ask yourselves if indeed it has no meaning why is it not superfluous?
What’s the difference between asking some to “do this please” and asking someone to “just do this please”?
I suppose the main thrust of this blog is really mindfulness. As the requestor you may think that a task is minor and won’t take long but there are many reasons why this may not be true for the person on the receiving end of the request. Maybe that person is just not as experienced as you – it may take them longer but they’ll never become more experienced without being allowed to try. Maybe their skills lie in other areas – have you got the right person for the job? Maybe you haven’t given it enough though and are “just” underestimating the task as hand? Maybe you simply don’t have the knowledge to be able to understand what’s involved – ever thought this may be your own shortcoming and not someone else’s?
When you’re handing an unexpected task to someone, walk a mile in their shoes and don’t assume or imply to them that this is a small task – let them make that judgement themselves. More importantly let them tell you if they don’t have the capacity to do it, sometimes no is the right answer.
Agile talks about responding to change but it also has important rules around short term planning and allowing those short terms plans to be completed.
There comes a point when people have to be allowed to complete what they have started. If you interrupt someone with a “just do this” task, what’s to say they won’t be interrupted again by someone else’s “just do this” task until eventually they’ve started a lot of stuff but can never actually finish anything.