Thursday, January 26, 2006

coping: the "I want it yesterday" syndrome

I cover a lot of ground in my job. Lots of products, lots of product managers, lots of constituencies. There are times I'm so far under water that I despair of ever seeing the surface.

Most of the folks I work with understand this. They work with me to schedule activities, deliverables and feedback. I love these people.

Some of them don't understand this. They suffer from what I call the "I want it yesterday" syndrome. I love these people too, but for different reasons.

These sort of people are passionate about what they do, and that passion spills over into urgency for themselves and others. I appreciate urgency, because passion on behalf of customers is no sin.

The challenge is that some issues are more urgent than others. And this is where the IWIY syndrome turns ugly.

Most of the folks who have this condition are type-A drivers who occupy a place at the center of a universe - their universe. By definition, sufferers of the syndrome are not good collaborators, and even worse planners. But they are excellent at the subtle art of making your live hell by impugning your ability to execute. Which, as all product marketing guys know, is the kiss of death.

And so, here are my hard-won tips to dealing with these people. Who, I must repeat, I simply adore.
  1. Don't make committments you can't keep. This is the #1 cause of death among product marketing professionals, and IWIY sufferers know it.
  2. Don't apologize for your decisions regarding relative task priority across your portfolio.
  3. Don't back down from your priorities.
  4. Don't engage in private email conversations with them. Bring in their manager and your manager.
  5. Do invite them to participate in planning.
  6. Do encourage them to prioritize their requests based on business value. Not everything they want is equally important, which oddly enough, they recognize.
  7. Don't get angry. They can't help it, and you must recognize that in them, and love them for it.
Letting someone with IWIY syndrome get away with bullying you into shifting your priorities will earn you the eternal reputation of being spineless. Which you don't need. They may not love you for standing up to them, but they will respect you. And if they don't respect you, at least their complaints to your peers & managers will fall on deaf ears and make them look like a-holes.

Which you do need.

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