A Quadrant II Day at the Office



The following exercise and analysis is designed to help you see the impact of a Quadrant II paradigm in a business setting on a very practical level. Suppose that you are the director of marketing for a major pharmaceutical firm. You are about to begin an average day at the office, and as you look over the items to attend to that day, you estimate the amount of time each one will take. Your unprioritized list includes the following: 1. You'd like to have lunch with the general manager (1-1 1/2 hours). 2. You were instructed the day before to prepare your media budget for the following year (2 or 3 days). 3. Your "IN" basket is overflowing into your "OUT" basket (1-1 1/2 hours). 4. You need to talk to the sales manager about last month's sales; his office is down the hall (4 hours). 5. You have several items of correspondence that your secretary says are urgent (1 hour). 6. You'd like to catch up on the medical journals piled upon your desk (1/2 hour). 7. You need to prepare a presentation for a sales meeting slated for next month (2 hours). 8. There's a rumor that the last batch of product X didn't pass quality control. 9. Someone from the FDA wants you to return his call about product X (1/2 hour). 10. There is a meeting at 2 P.M. for the executive board, but you don't know what it is about (1 hour). Take a few minutes now and use what you have learned from Habits 1, 2, and 3 that might help you to effectively schedule your day. By asking you to plan only one day, I have automatically eliminated the wider context of the week so fundamental to fourth generation time management. But you will be able to see the power of Quadrant II, principle-centered paradigm even in the context of one nine-hour period of time It is fairly obvious that most of the items on the list are Quadrant I activities. With the exception of item number six -- catching up on medical journals -- everything else is seemingly both important and urgent. If you were a third-generation time manager, using prioritized values and goals, you would have a framework for making such scheduling decisions and would perhaps assign a letter such as A, B, or C next to each item and then number 1, 2, 3 under each A, B, and C. You would also consider the circumstances, such as the availability of other people involved, and the logical amount of time required to eat lunch. Finally, based on all of these factors, you would schedule the day. 213 Many third-generation time managers who have done this exercise do exactly what I have described. They schedule when they will do what, and based on various assumptions which are made and explicitly identified, they would accomplish or at least begin most of the items in that day and push the remainder onto the next day or to some other time. For instance, most people indicate that they would use the time between 8 and 9 A.M. to find out exactly what was on the agenda for the executive board meeting so that they could prepare for it, to set up lunch with the general manager around noon, and to return the call from the FDA. They usually plan to spend the next hour or two talking to the sales manager, handling those correspondence items which are most important and urgent, and checking out the rumor regarding the last batch of product X which apparently didn't pass quality control. The rest of that morning is spent in preparing for the luncheon visit with the general manager and/or for the 2 P.M. executive board meeting, or dealing with whatever problems were uncovered regarding product X and last month's sales. After lunch, the afternoon is usually spent attending to the unfinished matters just mentioned and/or attempting to finish the other most important and urgent correspondence, making some headway into the overflowing "IN" basket, and handling other important and urgent items that may have come up during the course of the day. Most people feel the media budget preparations for the following year and the preparation for the next month's sales meeting could probably be put off until another day, which may not have as many Quadrant I items in it. Both of those are obviously more Quadrant II activities, having to do with long-term thinking and planning. The medical journals continue to be set aside because they are clearly Quadrant II and are probably less important than the other two Quadrant II matters just mentioned. What approach did you take as you scheduled those items? Was it similar to the thirdgeneration approach? Or did you take a Quadrant II, fourth-generation approach? (refer to the Time Management Matrix on page 151). The Quadrant II Approach Let's go through the items on the list using a Quadrant II approach. This is only one possible scenario; others could be created, which may also be consistent with the Quadrant II paradigm, but this is illustrative of the kind of thinking it embodies. As a Quadrant II manager, you would recognize that most P activities are in Quadrant I and most PC activities are in Quadrant II. You would know that the only way to make Quadrant I manageable is to give considerable attention to Quadrant II, primarily by working on prevention and opportunity and by having the courage to say "no" to Quadrants III and IV. The 2:00 P.M. board meeting. We will assume the 2 P.M. executive board meeting did not have an agenda for the attending executives, or perhaps you would not see the agenda until you arrived at the meeting. This is not uncommon. As a result, people tend to come unprepared and to "shoot from the hip." Such meetings are usually disorganized and focus primarily on Quadrant I issues which are both important and urgent, and around which there is often a great deal of sharing of ignorance. These meetings generally result in wasted time and inferior results and are often little more than an ego trip for the executive in charge. 214 In most meetings, Quadrant II items are usually categorized as "other business." Because "work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion" in accordance with Parkinson's Law, there usually isn't time to discuss them. If there is, people have been so beaten and smashed by Quadrant I, they have little or no energy left to address them. So you might move into Quadrant II by first attempting to get yourself on the agenda so that you can make a presentation regarding how to optimize the value of executive board meetings. You might also spend an hour or two in the morning preparing for that presentation, even if you are only allowed a few minutes to stimulate everyone's interest in hearing a more extended preparation at the next board meeting. This presentation would focus on the importance of always having a clearly specified purpose for each meeting and a well-thought-out agenda to which each person at the meeting has had the opportunity to contribute. The final agenda would be developed by the chairman of the executive board and would focus first in Quadrant II issues that usually require more creative thinking rather than Quadrant I issues that generally involve more mechanical thinking. The presentation would also stress the importance of having minutes sent out immediately following the meeting, specifying assignments given and dates of accountability. These items would then be placed on appropriate future agendas which would be sent out in plenty of time for others to prepare to discuss them. Now this is what might be done by looking at one item on the schedule -- the 2 P.M. executive board meeting -- through a Quadrant II frame of reference. This requires a high level of proactivity, including the courage to challenge the assumption that you even need to schedule the items in the first place. It also requires consideration in order to avoid the kind of crisis atmosphere that often surrounds a board meeting. Almost every other item on the list can be approached with the same Quadrant II thinking, with perhaps the exception of the FDA call. Returning the FDA call. Based on the background of the quality of the relationship with the FDA, you make that call in the morning so that whatever it reveals can be dealt with appropriately. This might be difficult to delegate, since another organization is involved that may have a Quadrant I culture and an individual who wants you, and not some delegatee, to respond. While you may attempt to directly influence the culture of your own organization as a member of the executive board, your Circle of Influence is probably not large enough to really influence the culture of the FDA, so you simply comply with the request. If you find the nature of the problem uncovered in the phone call is persistent or chronic, then you may approach it from a Quadrant II mentality in an effort to prevent such problems in the future. This again would require considerable proactivity to seize the opportunity to transform the quality of the relationship with the FDA or to work on the problems in a preventive way. Lunch with the general manager. You might see having lunch with the general manager as a rare opportunity to discuss some longer-range, Quadrant II matters in a fairly informal atmosphere. This may also take 30 to 60 minutes in the morning to adequately prepare for, or you may simply decide to have a good social interaction and listen carefully, perhaps without any plan at all. Either possibility may present a good opportunity to build your relationship with the general manager. 215 Preparing the media budget. Regarding item number two, you might call in two or three of your associates most directly connected to media budget preparation and ask them to bring their recommendations in the form of "completed staff work" (which may only require your initials to finally approve) or perhaps to outline two or three well-thoughtout options you can choose from and identify the consequences of each option. This may take a full hour sometime during the day -- to go over desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability, and consequences. But by investing the one hour, you tap the best thinking of concerned people who may have different points of view. If you haven't taken this approach before, you may need to spend more time to train them in what this approach involves, what "completed staff work" means, how to synergize around differences and what identifying alternative options and consequences involves. The "In" basket and correspondence. Instead of diving into the "IN" basket, you would spend some time, perhaps 30 to 60 minutes, beginning a training process with your secretary so that he or she could gradually become empowered to handle the "IN" basket as well as the correspondence under item number five. This training program might go on for several weeks, even months, until your secretary or assistant is really capable of being results-minded rather than methods-minded. Your secretary could be trained to go through all correspondence items and all "IN" basket items, to analyze them and to handle as many as possible. Items that could not be handled with confidence could be carefully organized, prioritized, and brought to you with a recommendation or a note for your own action. In this way, within a few months your secretary or executive assistant could hand 80 to 90 percent of all the "IN" basket items and correspondence, often much better than you could handle them yourself, simply because your mind is so focused on Quadrant II opportunities instead of buried in Quadrant I problems. The sales manager and last month's sales. A possible Quadrant II approach to item number four would be to think through the entire relationship and performance agreement with that sales manager to see if the Quadrant II approach is being used. The exercise doesn't indicate what you need to talk to the sales manager about, but assuming it's a Quadrant I item, you could take the Quadrant II approach and work on the chronic nature of the problem as well as the Quadrant I approach to solve the immediate need. Possibly you could train your secretary to handle the matter without your involvement and bring to your attention only that which you need to be aware of. This may involve some Quadrant II activity with your sales manager and others reporting to you so they understand that your primary function is leadership rather than management. They can begin to understand that they can actually solve the problem better with your secretary than with you, and free you for Quadrant II leadership activity. If you feel that the sales manager might be offended by having your secretary make the contact, then you could begin the process of building that relationship so that you can eventually win the confidence of the sales manager toward your both taking a more beneficial Quadrant II approach. Catching up on medical journals. Reading medical journals is a Quadrant II item you may want to procrastinate. But your own long-term professional competence and confidence may largely be a function of staying abreast of this literature. So, you may decide to put the subject on the agenda for your own staff meeting, where you could suggest that a systematic approach to reading the medical journals be set up among your staff. Members of the staff could study different journals and teach the rest the essence of what 216 they learn at future staff meetings. In addition, they could supply others with key articles or excerpts which everyone really needs to read and understand. Preparing for next month's sales meeting. Regarding item number seven, a possible Quadrant II approach might be to call together a small group of the people who report to you and charge them to make a thorough analysis of the needs of the salespeople. You could assign them to bring a completed staff work recommendation to you be a specified date within a week or 10 days, giving you enough time to adapt it and have it implemented. This may involve their interviewing each of the salespeople to discover their real concerns and needs, or it might involve sampling the sales group so that the sales meeting agenda is relevant and is sent out in plenty of time so that the salespeople can prepare and get involved in it in appropriate ways. Rather than prepare the sales meeting yourself, you could delegate that task to a small group of people who represent different points of view and different kinds of sales problems. Let them interact constructively and creatively and bring to you a finished recommendation. If they are not used to this kind of assignment, you may spend some of that meeting challenging and training them, teaching them why you are using this approach and how it will benefit them as well. In doing so, you are beginning to train your people to think long-term, to be responsible for completing staff work or other desired results, to creatively interact with each other in interdependent ways, and to do a quality job within specified deadlines. Product "X" and quality control. Now let's look at item number eight regarding product "X," which didn't pass quality control. The Quadrant II approach would be to study that problem to see if it has a chronic or persistent dimension to it. If so, you could delegate to others the careful analysis of that chronic problem with instructions to bring to you a recommendation, or perhaps simply to implement what they come up with and inform you of the results. The net effect of this Quadrant II day at the office is that you are spending most of your time delegating, training, preparing a board presentation, making one phone call, and having a productive lunch. By taking a long-term PC approach, hopefully in a matter of a few weeks, perhaps months, you won't face such a Quadrant I scheduling problem again. As you go through this analysis, you may be thinking this approach seems idealistic. You may be wondering if Quadrant II managers ever work in Quadrant I. I admit it is idealistic. This book is not about the habits of highly ineffective people; it's about habits of highly effective people. And to be highly effective is an ideal to work toward. Of course you'll need to spend time in Quadrant I. Even the best-laid plans in Quadrant II sometimes aren't realized. But Quadrant I can be significantly reduced into more manageable proportions so that you're not always into the stressful crisis atmosphere that negatively affects your judgment as well as your health. Undoubtedly it will take considerable patience and persistence, and you may not be able to take a Quadrant II approach to all or even most of these items at this time. But if you can begin to make some headway on a few of them and help create more of a Quadrant II mind-set in other people as well as yourself, then downstream there will be quantum improvements in performance. Again, I acknowledge that in a family setting or a small business setting, such delegation may not be possible. But this does not preclude a Quadrant II mind-set which would 217 produce interesting and creative ways within your Circle of Influence to reduce the size of Quadrant I crises through the exercise of Quadrant II initiative.

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