Let’s face it. As an engineer or a professional in the engineering industry, you’re going to have to deal with unforeseen pop-ups once in awhile. These short-notice tasks can arise during any project, sometimes at inopportune times. Oftentimes they come from the client or a senior stakeholder, and they can definitely throw a project out of whack. Your ability to concisely answer to these pop-ups is critical, so you can gain or maintain your reputation of being an effective leader or project manager. The following are the best ways to deal with short-notice tasks:

 

1.      Be flexible. Short notice tasks will oftentimes arise when working on a project. It’s impossible to control every aspect, no matter what you do, so accept that there will be some risk you can’t mitigate. It’s important to keep in mind, if you are a project manager, that one of your main duties is to fix emergent issues. Otherwise, anyone could do your job.

2.      Be proactive. You can’t predict the future, however, you may be able to predict what types of short-notice tasks pop up. For example, if your client is concerned about costs, you can probably assume there will be some financial-related questions asked by the client throughout the project. If you’re a senior project manager, you should already be familiar with your risk mitigation plans. Spend time analyzing the people involved in the decision-making process and the typical questions that may arise from them. This will be an indicator of what short-notice tasks you might expect.

3.      Have a standardized response. If a short-notice task arises, you will want to have a concise and accurate response. And unless specified, do not provide long dissertations in your responses, which can leave room for misinterpretation.

4.      Be able to re-prioritize tasks. Short-notice tasks can easily throw your work plan and daily task list into disarray. Your ability to be a leader and run projects more responsibly reflects on how you are able to re-prioritize to deal with emergent tasks. Begin to accept the need to adjust tasks and rework your plan, no matter the project. This will help you in the future as you begin to take on more responsibility and larger projects.

5.      Understand what’s important. There can be a lot of seemingly important issues that come up during every project. Your job is to cut through them and understand what’s most important in the project. You’ll first need to understand what the senior stakeholders and client want most since those are the people you ultimately need to satisfy. Therefore, you should always operate with the knowledge of what’s important to them. And if you don’t know, just ask.

6.      Be a clear communicator. Being a great communicator includes listening, speaking, and writing clearly. Listen carefully to understand the problem the first time it’s brought up, speak clearly to convey the response concisely and accurately, and write it down to convey the response more simply. This will help you better address the issue that has popped up as well as help your team understand how to go about fixing it.

 

Always remember: your role in dealing with short-notice tasks is to respond quickly, accurately, and concisely. It’s always better to be prepared in advance before these unexpected requirements arise. This will allow you to put energy back into your work plan and project much more quickly. By understanding how to deal with these pop-ups, you can become more respected in your career and elevate your company along the way.