Perhaps no one thing better characterizes the corporate environment than a conflation of importance and urgency. Given that importance inside of big corporations is so often hard to establish, and deadlines so easy to set, people tend to gravitate towards the urgent, treating it as if it is important. Nothing seems more certain to create rework than urgency. Worse, it creates stress, trumps thought and creativity, and works to continually subordinate long term vision to short term bursts of adrenaline. Things that are important will change status quo. By contrast, urgent just seems to sustain the status quo.
But urgent makes even people doing unimportant work feel important – if only for a bit. An aggressive deadline can make otherwise tedious tasks seem more important, of seeming consequence.
I watch the scurry – even get drug along with it at times, working with these teams – and am reminded of Deming’s brilliant quip: “Best efforts. We are being ruined by best efforts. Everyone doing their best. We’d be a lot better off if some people just came in late and read the newspaper.”