Friday, March 25, 2011

I Asked for it ASAP, so How Come it’s Not Done Yet?


“I need it ASAP.”

ASAP. Everyone knows this means “as soon as possible”. But not everyone interprets this to mean the same thing.

In my world, the term ASAP usually means “I need it now,” or, “As quickly as you can,” and sometimes even, “Drop everything you’re doing and do this right now.”

But if I’m asking someone to complete a task via e-mail, instant messaging, or a post-it note, the urgency behind my “ASAP” can’t be heard.

I’ve worked with colleagues who have interpreted ASAP to mean “By the end of the day.” Still others key in on the term “possible” and interpret my request as “Whenever you have time,” or, “When you have nothing else to do,” or even, “If you feel like it.”

So how do we avoid the confusion? By adding clarity to the request. If you need it within an hour, then simply say so.

What does the term ASAP mean to you?

21 comments:

Dave E said...

Unless it is something unforeseen, it means you failed to plan.

If the requester is my boss I would ask for a clarification as to the desired meaning. Does ASAP mean now or just sometime today/this week/this month (depends on the scale of the request).

If not my management chain then it's down to when I have time.

These days though, everything seems to be ASAP, even when we plan for it :(

Liza said...

ASAP can be one of those terms that, when appearing via email, provokes annoyance. Back in my corporate days, after taking a deep breath when ASAP appeared, I'd call the emailer and ask specifically when it is needed, while advising of other ASAP's that were currently in the pipeline. As a result of that call, ASAP oftenturned into "as soon as you can get to it...and thank you."

Colette said...

Dave E - yes, it does seem everything needs to be ASAP -- or even yesterday.

Liza, I agree -- the term does provoke annoyance - maybe partly due to lack of clarity.

Kenneth H. Lee said...

I had a manager who wanted stuff ASAP quite a bit and there was no questioning him. His response was just do it... or he would pull the "it's a condition of employment" b.s.

The ASAP was usually due to his sitting on the item until he realized that it needed to be done in 2 hours... When he had it for at least 24 hours, especially for audit requests where you are typically given 24 hours to turn it around.

I've seen other managers/people send out every piece of email marked urgent. When everything is marked urgent, nothing is urgent.

Andree Santini said...

ASAP is ambiguous, and usually plain annoying. It can jar my attention from what I'm doing, but doesn't necessarily speed the completion of the task. A clear deadline is much better, and also more respectful.

Carol Kilgore said...

As Soon As Possible. I treat it as finish what I'm doing then do this next. Unless it comes to me from someone who uses it all the time. It needs to say something besides ASAP if someone wants me to drop everything.

Anonymous said...

(Minimum) cardinal rules for making requests: 1) Requestor must be specific about what he/she needs and by when; 2) Requestor must get commitment from requestee that he/she will deliver by when. Both share responsibility in ensuring common understanding. As for ASAP, it means what it says -- requestee is being asked to deliver as soon as possible, and unless otherwise specified, the requestee gets to determine how soon that is.

Colette said...

Agreed -- ASAP is ambiguous. Anonymous, I like your interpretation -- that the receiver gets to decide when that is.

Stephen D said...

ASAP means "get at the end of the line" unless of course the requester has a much lower S/N than I. I have special disdain for those who pose as surrogates to sr execs and say something like "Prince William wants this."
Don't recall U ever using the term - you were much smoother than that.
{;+)

Colette said...

Ha -- thanks Stephen. I think I was mostly pretty clear about what I needed, when, and why. But I'm sure there were times when I slipped.

suholla said...

Mostly ASAP means (to me) that I need it right away. Admittedly, it is true that seeing ASAP in an email can be quite annoying. Sometimes it reads as if I am being ordered to 'drop everything else and do this instead', without an explanation. I focus on either the 'soon' (now) or 'possible' (when I can), depending on the nature of the sender and how often he/she requests things ASAP - unless, of course, I have the background information necessary to make the call.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that these responses are almost all from the perspective of the receiver. I'd be very interested to see some from the perspective of the requester.

Megs said...

When I ask ASAP, it's because the person I'm asking has a gazillion MUST. DO. NOW. things on their plate and I include the background of how/why this is urgent so they can prioritize accordingly (including the dates on the last few times I sent it).

When receiving, I can usually tell by the nature/size of the request whether it's a stop, drop, roll or just get it as soon as it's possible and work it in all your spare time.

Liz Fichera said...

To me, it's always meant "drop what you're doing and work on this NOW." I worked with someone once where everything was needed ASAP which, of course, becomes impossible. That's when you had to ask for follow up--e.g. "Did you mean in five minutes or five hours?" kind of thing.

Tracy said...

When I am the receiver of an ASAP request, I will complete the task as soon as I can, considering all of the other priorities on my plate. When I use ASAP, I mean it as "do this today."

Colette said...

It's interesting how everyone really does perceive the term differently.

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

I always thought ASAP meant to drop what you are doing and get on the requested task. Which is why I ALWAYS ask!

Talei said...

"Drop everything you're doing right now and just like, do this!' ;-) At least that's what I think, whether or not I comply is another question...

Anonymous said...

As soon as Possible means when you are able to do it. I hate the term and do not use it. It is either "drop everything and do this" or "after you do so and so then do this". As a manager, it is my job to know what my people are working on and my job to prioritize that work. To say ASAP means that I am saying I really do not care when I get this, just do it when you can based on the deadlines I gave you currently. If you can get it done without missing another deadline then do it, but otherwise deadlines come first.

Now when I get an ASAP, I usually call the person and ask them if they mean for me to stop putting this fire out because of their poor planning to work on the new fire they just sent me marked ASAP. In a nice way, of course. It usually ends up that they tell me to just work it in but do not change the order of emergencies because those other things they promised to the client last week and the first of this week and the ASAP was just promised to the client tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

ASAP is so annoying and confusing to everybody.... it should mean exactly what it says, nothing more, nothing less.

If I am receiving a request from a client to complete a task "as soon as possible" then obviously Im going to work on it as soon as I can, but if there is an "urgent" job to do also, then Im going to work on that one first. It makes sense doesn't it.

Why cant job priority be as simple as

(1) SUPER URGENT (highest priority/date specific)
(2) URGENT (possibly date specific)
(3) ASAP (as soon as possible)
(4) NO RUSH (lowest priority)

Its soooo annoying when people refer to ASAP as meaning "its due yesterday" etc - it doesnt mean that is due yesterday at all, it means it is due "as soon as possible".

Colette said...

It's amazing how even in this small group there are so many different interpretations of what ASAP means.