This is a tried and true hack that isn’t limited to the managers in the crowd. Death by next action has it’s roots in the ‘Getting Things Done’ philosophy. The ‘next action’ phrase refers to the very next physical action that moves a project forward. Death by Next Action is a micromanagement trick that’s used most effectively by non-micromanagers. Since the behavior is so out of character for the non-micromanager, it adds extra psychological kick in the pants. It should go without saying _(But look! It doesn’t!)_ that overuse of Death by Next Action will turn you into a micromanager. Go easy.
You’ve got a boss/colleague/intern/vendor who is dragging their feet on some task that you’re dependent upon, but only they can execute.
Death by next action. Simply put, you hound them until they get it done. And by hound, I mean you call, email or show up on their doorstep. Once a week at first. If you get no resolution after one week, you escalate to every other day. If, after week two, you still have no resolution, you escalate to a daily communication until it’s done. You can certainly push the envelope and do a twice-per-day action, but that’s bordering on pathological.
- Be nice. When executing Death by Next Action you should never be snarky, never let a hint of mean-spritedness show. Your demeanor should always be terminally cheerful. The reason for this is purely pragmatic: if the other person gets a whiff of anything but the lemony fresh scent of cheerful, they’ll have a really easy time rationalizing further delays.
- Be transparent. Let them know your expectations and your plans. You expect this task to be completed ASAP, and you plan to remind them of it weekly or daily. Every communication should end with the reminder that you’ll touch base with them again in x days. The reason for this is that they get to see exactly how much more torment lies in store for them, and they’ll be more likely to execute sooner.
- Be prompt. If you say you’re going to follow up with them, do it. Put a note in your calendar, wear a cilice belt, whatever it takes to get you to throw the elbow into their ribs. The reason for this is that if you let it ride, the message you’re sending is that the task isn’t as important as you make it seem. If it isn’t important, why should they spend their time on it?
Death by Next Action is a potent hack. If you’re a micromanager this hack probably makes your palms sweat. Get back, devil. If you’re a more balanced type, then Death by Next Action can be an extremely useful tool for getting your work done.