Many of you will be familiar with the 4 quadrants style of management that has developed in the last twenty years or so. In this process it often talks about the 4 types of problems that a business has to deal with each day. They can generally be broken down into 4 categories:
- The urgent and unimportant
- The non urgent and unimportant
- The urgent and important
- The non urgent and important
We’ve found over the years that the most successful jewelers have been the one’s who have the greatest ability to avoid being caught up in the urgent but unimportant, and are able to concentrate their time in the non urgent and important.
Let’s give you an example of each type.
- Mrs. Smith brings in her watch for a battery and insists on speaking with the owner about getting a new strap fitted while it is being done.
- The marketing plan for the next 12 months needs to be completed.
- More rubbish bags are needed as you are down to the last three.
- The pricing tickets need to be completed for the sale starting tomorrow.
So how did you do matching them up? The urgent tasks are obviously Mrs. Smith and the sale tickets, but it would be fair to say that Mrs. Smith may fit into the category of unimportant (not to Mrs. Smith of course, but if you weren’t there to help her I’m sure she would be quite happy to deal with one of the staff) with the sales tickets being urgent and important.
The non urgent tasks are the rubbish bags (which are not important) and the marketing plan.
It’s at this point where many jewelers fall into a trap. Understandably every store wants to offer that personal service for their customers, that is the point of difference that the chains don’t offer. However, you need to do it in a way that you don’t finish up at your customers beck and call. Mrs. Smith’s strap is important; but not as important to you as getting your marketing plan prepared. It’s important you offer that special service to Mrs. Smith, but you must not compromise your business in the process – if you went out every time a Mrs. Smith asks to have her strap changed you would never get anything else done.
The urgent tasks, by their very urgency, tend to draw attention to themselves. The non urgent and unimportant are either not critical, or eventually become urgent and are dealt with. The great shame is the non urgent but important tasks that get left – such as preparing a marketing plan for the coming 12 months. The consequences of not completing these types of tasks are, on the surface, minimal, however their long term impact can often go unnoticed. Much like the frog that slowly boils to death when the heat gets turned up, these important areas can be neglected until it is too late.
Although these four types of tasks have been a relatively recent addition to management theory, the principles have been around for many years. The German Army over 100 years ago, used to divide it’s officers into 4 different types.
- The hard working and incompetent
- The lazy and incompetent
- The hard working and competent
- The lazy and competent
The first category were the most frightening and were effectively isolated. Their incompetence could result in loss of life, but because of their hard working nature they had the ability to cause even greater havoc than the lazy officer.
So which category did they prefer to promote? The German army sought to identify and promote the lazy and competent officer. They saw the laziness as a virtue as they realized a lazy yet competent officer would not waste time on matters that were of no consequence. These types of people had the ability to pinpoint the areas that got them the greatest results for the least effort – and they would conserve resources better as a result.
So take a lesson from the military handbook. Start practicing being lazy and force yourself to only work on those areas that will bring you the greatest results – the important but non urgent.