Solving Problems When the Clock is Ticking

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In this edition

I’m going to stick with the theme of time this week. In launching the Maverick Manager Masterclass, I ran into a showstopping problem at the very last minute. You’ve probably been there before yourself: you’re ready to go and all of a sudden you’re stuck.

So, I figured I would share what happened in more detail, along with some tips on getting unstuck.

Thanks as always for reading, and please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts by simply replying to this email.

Solving Problems When the Clock is Ticking


Launching the Maverick Manager Masterclass was a journey filled with lessons, especially in those final, pressure-cooker moments. As the clock ticked down to launch, I encountered a problem that tested every bit of my problem-solving skills. This experience got me thinking about how we handle tricky problems under tight deadlines. Today, I want to share some insights on how to effectively tackle those high-pressure situations where the clock is ticking and the stakes are high.

The Problem I Needed to Solve

There are few facets of my life more complicated or vexing than dealing with French bureaucracy. The French not only invented bureaucracy; they perfected it. Few areas are more byzantine than corporate accounting and tax. So, when I told my expert-compatable (my business accountant) that I was going to launch the Masterclass, he told me to make sure I put systems in place to properly account for taxes (VAT) and which send complete invoices to customers.

What I discovered was that the simplicity and user appeal of learning platforms (which directly improve conversion rates) is inversely proportional to their compliance with European and French tax and accounting requirements.

What’s the real problem?

The first step in solving any problem—particularly when you’re under pressure—is making sure you don’t let the pressure prevent you from recognizing the real crux of the issue. Pressure makes people jump at early signs, which may only be symptoms of a deeper issue. Implicit in the search for the cause is the definition of the ideal outcome. Without a clear goal, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds and spend valuable time on issues that don’t move you closer to your objective.

It’s equally important to distinguish between substantive problems and execution, technical, or process issues, which may be easier to resolve but can still cause significant delays. My situation was a good example of this. The tools that were the best at compliance were functional but far from ideal for customer acquisition and subsequent user experience.

What will it take to solve the problem?

Once the real problem is identified, you then need to assess what it will take to solve it. This involves evaluating whether achieving the initial expected solution is possible within the given timeframe. You must consider the time required. Here, it’s not just “how much time the task will take”, but also how much time you need to allow for it to take given two factors.

  1. The Unexpected: Things take longer when you have less experience. You need time to discover how they work, allow time for experimentation and things not going initially to plan, and otherwise compensate for your lack of fluency.
  2. The People Working on It: Resource availability is always a primary accelerator (or impediment) to finding solutions, both in number and capability.

Recognizing I had a tradeoff to make between user experience and compliance, I had initially opted for the better user experience. That was my priority, and I had done enough research to figure out that there were two decent solutions on the market. But I also knew it would mean I would need to flex some decent, but disused technical muscles when it came to e-commerce platforms and APIs. What I would fail to do, however, is leave time for the Unexpected. I knew I could make the technology work in principle and I knew how to test it, but the combination of the substance (tax reporting), some unexpected glitches, and reliance on support staff meant that a fast solution proved elusive.

Meanwhile, while I knew from past experience to not take shortcuts to the solution, I was nevertheless putting a ton of pressure on myself to launch. I had already had to delay for two weeks due to some personal issues. I was damned if I was going to miss the target again: I never miss deadlines twice! I knew I needed to focus intently on this to solve it, so I basically put everything else to one side to get the job done.

Were I in a corporate environment, I am sure there would have been others who were feeling the same way. Everybody knows that stress and panic can cloud judgment, but that doesn’t stop people from being stressed and panicked. Staying calm and focused is always the right thing.

Moving to Plan B

When the ideal solution isn’t feasible due to time constraints or other limitations, the next step is to identify the next best solution. This involves determining what’s “good enough” that aligns as closely as possible with the desired outcome, and it comes with its own set of estimates for solving it. For ultimately one of two things needs to happen:

  1. You need to sacrifice your ideal outcome.
  2. You need to give yourself more time.

How you approach this tradeoff will always depend on the consequences of NOT doing one of the above. In these situations, you need to be really clear with everyone on what those consequences are, and make sure everyone is comfortable with the outcome and the process by which the decision was made.

For me, the choice was simple. I knew that, even if I could find a better solution down the road, launching with the wrong solution now would leave me with some annoying headaches. Plus, I don’t really want to tempt fate with the French tax authorities.

I gave myself more time.

Maximum communication

In any high stakes/high pressure environment, clear, consistent, and frequent communication is critical. There can be no such thing as overcommunication in these circumstances. Regular, frequent updates not only set expectations and keep everyone informed, they also keep people off your back so you and your team can get to work.

It was touch and go right before the launch. Until late afternoon, I still thought there was a better than 50/50 chance I could launch. I was wrong, obviously, but I knew exactly where I was and what needed to be done, and the consequences weren’t terrible.

I also know that, were I running this project in a corporate environment, I would have communicated massively. I would have signaled to stakeholders well in advance and made sure I had talked through contingencies and consequences. I would have had regular stand-ups to ensure everyone is on the same page and has the opportunity to ask important questions in a live environment. I’d have issued frequent written status reports as well through email or messaging applications.


Solving problems when the clock is ticking is a challenge that requires clear thinking, good planning, and effective communication. It means resisting the urge to allow time to dictate your actions until you have a good idea of the real problem. Then it becomes a process of identifying the best solution. As part of that, you must maximally communicate.

I touch on related topics in the Maverick Manager Masterclass, particularly in the chapters around Workload/Prioritization and the Manager-Employee Relationship. My goal is to equip you with these skills and more, ensuring you are prepared to tackle any challenge that comes your way. I hope these insights help you in your own high-pressure moments.

A quick reminder!

I’m launching the Maverick Manager Masterclass on June 24th!

Find out more here and register for exclusive discounts to newsletter subscibers!

LinkedIn Roundup

I’ve been quiet on LinkedIn this past week as I’ve been head down on the course!

Here are ​all my posts on LinkedIn​.

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