Caller ID. It’s a beautiful thing!

Home The Savvy PM Blog Caller ID. It’s a beautiful thing!

151 My home phone rang.  Simultaneously, my cell phone rang.  I bolted out of bed to first silence the rings, then to hear the alert.  When both phones ring, that is an immediate clue that the incoming call is urgent.  It could be one of two things…

Of course, we may feel a sense of urgency when just a single phone rings, right?  Do you tend to immediately stop what you are doing to answer the phone?  That incessant ringing, no matter what your ringtone is, drives us to quickly answer the phone.


[Recorded response] “Hi, this is Clarence.  I am calling from the Consumer Research Surveys of the World.  Please stay on the line to respond to the following survey of features and benefits of …”

Click.  Right, this is about when you hang up.  Now, what was I doing before my life was interrupted?!

This call was very unimportant in the scheme of life.  The ringtone made it seem urgent, and the call was quickly answered.

I learned a lesson as a teenager working in a small-town pharmacy.  The owner had a special red phone in the pharmacy to which only the three doctors in town knew the number.  They could phone prescriptions directly to the pharmacist – quite efficient!  One Sunday morning, I was running the store while the owner took care of some matters in his back office.  The “red phone” rang.  I did not answer since I didn’t speak the Latin that doctors and pharmacists use!  Since there were no answering machines or voicemail in those days, I stepped to the back office door to announce to the owner that the red phone was ringing.  The owner then taught me a life lesson:

If it’s important, they will call back.

What was seemingly so urgent immediately lost its status when compared to its importance.  In a later conversation with the owner, he expounded on how people feel the urgency and emergency of the telephone bell.  He advised that I should not let the telephone always take priority in life.

When we are discussing project management, however, isn’t communications rated as the number one skill of a PM?  Yes, in my opinion.  Be careful to let your project communications be clear, direct, and accurate.  Additionally, be careful to be responsive, accessible, and available to your teams and key stakeholders.  Be proactive; anticipate the urgent matters so that the telephone bell does not need to run your life!

Then where does urgency belong in project management?  It definitely has a place.  As we manage the uncertainly of a project, we consciously identify and analyze the risk events surrounding the project.  We gauge the probability of the event’s occurrence as well as the impact of the event if it were to occur.

Also take care to assess the urgency of the risk events that are identified. Though an event may not seem to have a high impact, it may be imminent.  Because it is so soon to be upon us, it must be dealt with first, oftentimes letting urgency take priority over importance.  Risk urgency assessment might be compared to Caller ID on that ringing phone.  Though the bell makes us respond with urgency, assessment of the Caller ID information may immediately cancel the urgency.

Oh, yeah, back to the two-phone-call alert!  Assessing the Caller ID information, I can quickly determine by the source – am I being called out for a fire emergency?  Or is my local county’s system calling to alert me of a weather watch?  The urgency and importance of my response is driven by my assessment of the caller.

Caller ID.  It’s a beautiful thing.