The Responsive Method

The responsive method

My goal is to respond to your request as quickly as I can. Because when I do, I have the best chance of interacting with you while you are the most focused on the request at hand. I am nearly guaranteed that you will be passionate and thoughtful while your need is still fresh. As time goes on though, you will be increasingly distracted as other activities take on greater importance and the urgency of your request will dissipate.

So, when you ask me something, I know that I have a small window to serve you. I want to be useful to you right now, because I too will value in return. That’s why I suggest a new approach to rapidly growing as a person. I call this The Responsive Method and I think it applies to both people and companies.

The Responsive Method is centered around the belief that interactions with urgency are what propel people and organizations forward.

And in business, this approach is critical for Startups because every hour matters as they try to find their way with limited resources and time to make an impact.

Historically, organizational structures and hierarchical decision trees defined how people worked. These models allowed managers to apply experience to decisions they made and ensure consistency across the company. But, they sacrificed the free-flow of information, creativity, and meaningful contributions from everyone involved. They also inherently inserted delays and inefficiency into how communications happened.

I believe that we have entered a new era where those who can process and respond to the rapid flow of information will be most rewarded — no matter their title or role.

Rapid response and adaptability are now the most important skills for job and organizational success. These skills are at the core of The Responsive Method as I define it:

The Responsive Method is a simple way to have mutually beneficial interactions. It embraces an interrupt-driven approach to communications and getting work done, but bases longer-term investments of resources on aligning requests against pre-set strategic initiatives. It is a framework for people and organizations to get the most out of today’s abundant free-flow of information while staying on track towards a goal.

The Responsive Method has five key characteristics.

Interrupt driven
This is contrary to conventional wisdom, but I think you and your company should be driven by interruptions. Most people are taught to try to tune out distractions because there are so many urgent but unimportant requests. Tuning them out is a mistake. I think you should be open to them and listen carefully to the noise so you can learn to pick out the valuable data. This will also help you assess how important the request truly is for the requester and be sensitive to the impact of not helping.

This is true regardless of whether you work in sales, handle customer support requests, respond to candidates, or are an engineer dealing with incoming bug reports. Embrace the interruptions. A request is the only sign you have that someone needs something from you right now.

Goal first
If you are going to be interrupt-driven and respond to requests in real-time you need a way to assess the presented needs. While most questions are easy to quickly answer, some require meaningful investments of time and energy to satisfy (e.g. a major feature request from an important customer).

You need to know whether you are going to invest that effort. And to do so wisely you must establish a “goal first” approach and a true north for where you are headed. A “goal first” approach is about defining your vision. Because If you do not have a vision, it will be difficult to understand what major requests are aligned with your goal and your direction and need your attention longer term.

Yay or nay now
You should respond to requests quickly as they come in. That’s because you can not afford to keep revisiting them. You need to quickly analyze them as they are received and allow your “goal first” strategy to guide you. Most requests can be quickly handled but the goal of a rapid “Yah” or “Nah” should not be at the expense of accuracy. There is no point in being hasty but wrong.

It is absolutely ok to acknowledge that the request was received and that you will get back to the person shortly. The key is to digest the information and its importance as quickly as possible so you can get on to the next one and creating more value.

Don’t be afraid to graciously say “Nah” when a request is not in line with your future.

Transparent
Allow someone to peek inside and understand why you responded the way you did rather than just hearing your response. Explaining the “why” makes the “what” simple to digest. You need to be more than just nice because being nice alone does not help someone see your perspective.

This is especially important when saying “No.” The benefit to you is that if you share your assumptions and motivations and they are wrong — the other person will have a chance to help you see a better way. If you simply provide your answer and when pushed respond with “My mind’s made up”, you will avoid ever having to change your course, but you’re limiting your opportunity for growth.

Kind
People worry that being kind at work is often a sign of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being kind is good for you as it allows you to stay in control, remain humble, and maintain perspective. While it does not mean that you will always agree with everyone or even avoid making tough decisions — it does allow you stay calm and build strong relationships. It also means that you will focus on being helpful and open to the interrupts that define The Responsive Method.

Lasting
Our ultimate goal should be to build relationships and create work that is sustainable and lasting. By lasting I mean that you must be able to continue to enjoy what you do and how you do it for long periods of time — and it must not impact other’s ability to find their own joy. This inherently rules out quick-hitting highs and destructive behaviors.

The gaps in time between request and response frustrate everyone involved and destroy innovation. By compressing the time it takes to absorb a question and thoughtfully explain the response we accelerate the value we create and the satisfaction we receive from our efforts.

Welcome to The Responsive Method. I think it’s the one approach you need to accelerate your personal and business growth and the value you ultimately create.

How responsive are you and your company?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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