I rarely rant when I write these articles. I always try and look on the positive side of things and realize that it’s within our control and influence to get as much done as effectively and efficiently as possible. Today, I’m going to make an exception and rant about people that make you jump through hoops just for the sake of jumping through hoops.
Here’s the scenario. A problem or an issue arises on your project. It may be a technical issue, or it could just be a decision that needs to be made about final pricing. There are three possible solutions on the table, but you already know in your heart of hearts which option should and is going to be selected. Everyone else at the table also knows which option is best. You’ve all been presented with similar situations and choices in the past, so the best answer is clear.
Out of the blue, one of the executives at the table speaks up and dogmatically states, “We should thoroughly explore the pros and cons of each potential scenario and come back in a week to make a final decision.” Argh! Are you kidding me? We already know what the answer is now! Why wait an entire week to come back with the exact same decision we can make right now?
What’s more, thoroughly exploring the pros and cons of each potential scenario means a ton of legwork on your part. It’s more research, conversations, pulling reports together, and just one more meeting to add to your already crazy schedule. You have nothing against doing the work, as long as there is a new value derived from your efforts. The problem is not even that you are reinventing the wheel; it’s spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Why go through the motions when you already know the answer? It’s infuriating.
Why You Shouldn’t Have to Jump Through Hoops
Jumping through hoops just for the sake of doing so is in poor form, for a number of reasons:
- It Wastes People’s Time – The biggest problem is that it is a terrible waste of everyone’s time. People have enough legitimate, productive, and necessary work to do already. The last thing they need is to have unnecessary work piled on top of their already burgeoning schedules.It wasn’t too long ago that I was asked to do some pricing research to come to a final fee on an upcoming project (yes, I work very closely with our sales team). I was not on board with the request because it was going to take some time to dig into competitor’s websites and make calls to ensure we were comparing apples to apples. My problem was not, as you might think, with the time it was going to take to do it; rather, I had a problem because we already knew what we were going to charge. I took the time to jump through the hoops, and lo and behold, we ended up charging what we all knew we were going to charge in the first place.
- It Wastes Project Time – Jumping through hoops unnecessarily also wastes valuable project time. We know that once a project begins, its schedule is relentless in the march toward completion. It’s your job as a project manager to keep the schedule unfettered and intact. You must not let anything it slow it down while you work through the agreed upon plan.Do you know what can slow down a project in a big way? You got it, jumping through hoops. There may be a technical issue that comes up and someone says due diligence needs to be performed to make the best decision. That may be the case if the answer is not already known. If everyone already knows and has agreed on the direction to take, why go through the exercise? Unfortunately, you now find that you have to carve a week out of the project plan and reclaim that time somewhere else, like nights and weekends.
- It Kills Morale – You can see the hoops lining up in front of you once you’ve been through a number of these time-killing exercises. You know exactly when they will appear, you know who has the hoops in their back pocket, and you know how much time it’s going to waste. So does everyone else in the room. When the time waster surfaces you can see the collective eye-roll as everyone else thinks, “Here we go again…”
Why Do People Make You Jump Through Hoops?
Since nothing good comes from unnecessary hoop jumping, why do people make others suffer through it? Below are a few of my observations throughout the years:
- They are Control Freaks – Clearly, these are the people that like to have control. They’re into the details of every little thing. They are all up in everyone’s business. Making people jump through hoops is just another in a toolbox of strategies they employ to exert their control over others. It could be that they need the gratification that comes from using their position or power, or it could be that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Or, they consistently micro-manage everything, and no one can do anything about it.
- They are FANATIC for Process – Another trait I’ve seen is that these people are absolutely over the top when it comes to following a process. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE processes. I love taking something that is complicated, messy, and hard to understand and making it simple, clean, and easy to follow. But, I also do this for the clarity, focus, and closure the process brings and not just for the sake of the process itself.On the opposite end of the spectrum are those that create and follow process just for the sake of the process itself. Clarity, focus, and closure may already be present, yet everyone is still expected to jump through the hoops just as if the answer was not already known.
- It’s a Stall or Diversion Tactic – Finally, I have known people to throw unnecessary work onto the table as a stall or diversion tactic. They may not be ready for the particular phase or deliverable to be completed if it means the project moves over to their department or becomes their responsibility. They’re not ready for that yet, so what do they do? They concoct a scheme to slow the project down or cause people to look in a different direction. Either way, the motive is not good.
How to Stop Someone from Making You Jump Through Hoops
Is there anything that can be done when someone forces everyone into a situation like described above? Yes. The most effective way is to address it up front. You can say something like, “Hey, don’t we already know the answer here? Let’s go ahead and pick the one that we all know it’s going to be, and move on to our next issue.” Let everyone know how much time can be saved from a resource and project perspective. Bring up the fact that there’s an opportunity cost involved as well since you’ll be taking valuable time away from other projects and deliverables. Plus, once you’ve been through this a number of times you can reference past situations where the results ended up being just fine without wasting unnecessary time.
Plenty of entertainers and their animals will jump through hoops for you at the circus. Acts that do particularly well at keeping an audience entertained are those with cute little dogs that do all kinds of flips, rolls, and jumps. But, your company is not the circus (despite the fact you may think it is) and you’re not a cute little dog act. Strive to find the best decision quickly. It may even be just a good decision, but a good decision made now is ten times better than the best decision diluted by time.