Anyone who’s had the fortune (or misfortune, depending how you look at it) of working with me knows that I cannot stand the use of the acronym ASAP (as soon as possible). I hate it because it leaves the recipient to decide when a task should be delivered. “I could possibly deliver it after I have completed all my other tasks, not sure exactly when that will be”. Whereas the word ‘Urgent’ has a definition all of its own.
Urgent, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, is an old French word coming from the latin ‘urgere’, meaning ‘demanding or requiring prompt action.’ Therefore, it can be comfortably interpreted as ‘the completion of an urgent task will add the most value to the organisation or team.’ (Or conversely) ‘relieve the organisation of the most risk or damage’.
Of course, it is always possible to introduce superlatives like ‘critical’, but if my colleagues and I agree that ‘urgent’ represents moving a task to the highest priority, we can still use the word critical when there is real danger or extreme impact.
So, what are we left with? ‘Nice to have’, ‘useful’, ‘urgent’ and ultimately ‘critical’. Some of my Bayard Associates are currently researching into ‘normalized’ project management, which one day is very likely to replace the human project manager in task prioritisation. But for now, I suppose the message I am trying to convey is that teams work best when there’s alignment on the communication of everyday terms, especially those that define priorities.
Have a good week