Stop Me Before It's Too Late
Proactivity and communication are essential for healthy relationships at work. I often use the phrase “Stop me before it’s too late” in this work style and find that it can serve as a good catchphrase marker for these two traits.
The context of saying “stop me before it’s too late” is typically when I encounter a problem (usually a blocker) with a non-trivial solution, and I’m about to fix it using my best judgment. Before starting, I usually communicate the problem and my proposed solution in writing and invite feedback from my colleagues. I give them the opportunity to stop me before it gets too late.
The “before it’s too late” message typically follows this format:
- TLDR: a brief description of the problem and proposed solution (TLDR is important because your colleagues are busy, and TLDR allows them to quickly skip or skim the message if they find it irrelevant) Problem or current state of affairs
- Alternative solutions to the problem, one by one
- Preferred solution, as I see it
- Clear statement that I plan to begin working on my preferred solution. This is often phrased like this: “Stop me before it’s too late if you have concerns or believe it’s not the best way to address the problem. Unless you strongly oppose the presented solution, I will start working on it tomorrow.”
Often, my colleagues quietly accept my preferred solution with a series of thumbs-up emojis. Other times, they share their concerns and provide additional context that I was unaware of, or ask questions that I had missed. In these cases, we refine the solution or abandon it altogether.
Rarely, someone provides feedback that comes too late. Sometimes this is a comment on a suboptimal solution. If the company values speed over perfection, as is often the case in startups, this is an acceptable tradeoff. However, if objections are critical, I have no choice but to scrap my solution.
Once I have completed the task, I usually send a second message stating that it is done. It’s like committing a transaction.
The phrase “Stop me before it’s too late” invites feedback and input from your colleagues. This can help ensure that your preferred solution is the best option, and it can also help build trust and collaboration within your team.