Give the procrastinator in your organization a reliable system to complete projects on time.

Do you remember watching the end of the movie "Gone With the Wind" and seeing Scarlet O'Hara standing alone in the doorway? She's devastated by all the things going wrong in her life and she says, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Hey, Atlanta's been set on fire, the only man who truly loved you walked out, you're flat broke and your only skill is throwing lavish parties. Today would be a great time to start putting your life together!

Are there any people who think like Scarlet at your company? There usually is. Any job or project they're given gets put off until "tomorrow." When asked why, the excuses begin to flow like water from a broken pipe. But rarely are there extenuating circumstances to justify the project not being done on time and correctly.

So why do people procrastinate on projects? They fear failure. If they act and make a mistake, they feel they'll be to blame. Getting over this means admitting fear and accepting that failure will happen to them whether they act or not. They don't see they've got the best chance to create a positive outcome by choosing to act. Remind them that the only things that improve with time are cheese and wine. Ideas don't ever work if they never get tried.

People will find other people and circumstances to blame for not getting started or for not bringing a project in on time. It's a smoke screen that the effective manager sees through. So what's the cure? Start by having them view problems and projects as opportunities to succeed rather than to fail.

Then give the procrastinator a reliable system that ensures the best chance for success. A methodical and effective process is the best way I've found to get the desired results in the desired time frame.

The P.E.E.R. Group

This is the system I've used; the acronym stands for Planning, Execution, Evaluation and Refinement. It's the whole process you need to improve any business activity.

  • The Planning Phase -- The first step in the planning phase is to create the best definition of the problem you're looking to solve or the process you're looking to improve. Take your time doing this. This is the most important step because all the next steps become clearer when you really understand the challenge you're facing.

    Next, bring together all the people most directly impacted by the problem or the process. You'll want to get their participation because they know a lot about what's going on now, and they'll have good ideas on how things could improve. Their input in the process is also the best way to get their buy-in when the plan gets put into action.

    Determine what parameters will affect the ability to resolve the problem and complete the project. How much time is available? How much money can be spent? Who will be made available to resolve the problem and work on the project?

    Use the people in the group to brainstorm for all the possible solutions to the problem. Suspend your judgment as to whether they're practical solutions or not. We want to encourage creativity. Here's where getting started sooner gives you the greatest number of ideas to consider. Then review each solution to identify the best based on the definition of the problem and the parameters.

    Finally, identify what resources will be allocated to put this solution to work, and select a project manager who is responsible for overseeing the plan's progress.

  • The Execution Phase -- During the execution phase, you need to take all the resources identified in the plan and put them to work. The money, the know-how and the personnel make a plan a reality.

    Keep the project on track; this is the project manager's responsibility.

  • The Evaluation Phase -- When evaluating the plan, use objective measurements to assess how well the plan is working. Make sure the parameters are being adhered to.

  • The Refinement Phase -- This phase requires you to determine what adjustments are necessary to make the plan work better, and put these refinements to work.

    Do this to each of your business processes and you'll have a well-run company needing less of your time and energy. Then the only instance you'll "think about that tomorrow" will be when you're on a well-deserved vacation.