Triage for Managing Interrupts

The “Triage for Managing Interrupts” video is for startup founders. You have a lot on your plate and events and interruptions make it harder.

Triage for Managing Interrupts


Managing Interrupts

The “Triage for Managing Interrupts” video is for startup founders. You have a lot on your plate and events and interruptions make it even more interesting.

You have to identify where you can make a difference and invest time there. So let’s assume that you have a plan and a schedule for the day and the week that has let go of less important items or allows you to manage them as lower priorities.

Let’s also assume that you have some basic systems in place for managing development, support, and sales and marketing.  You have a regular one meeting a week for each of these areas with an agenda that attendees can add to or comment on to make the meeting more productive. And you may have some dashboards for each area to track key performance indicators or other data relevant to decisions you might make in the meeting.

So far so good, now something happens that you must evaluate and decide how to handle. This may be an email from a prospect, or a customer, a new development in your market, an action by a competitor, or an internal situation like someone is thinking of quitting.

Based on what you know you need to put it in one of half a dozen buckets:

  • Drop everything and address
  • Deal with today
  • Deal with in the next two or three days
  • Handle with a standing meeting or standard process
  • Monitor
  • Ignore

Develop Systems

Founders and early employees in a startup often excel at creative improvisation. But the challenge is what is heroic must become routine. Your goal should be to develop standard answers, standard checklists, and agreed upon procedures so that you can focus your creative efforts where they will make a difference. Unless the customer or prospect has a complex or novel request where a creative solution will have a significant impact, you should err on the side of standard operating procedure.

It’s also a good idea to have regular communication:

  • Weekly team meetings
  • Weekly one on ones
  • Monthly operations review
  • Weekly pipeline review
  • Daily standup
  • Monthly or quarterly account review with each customer
  • Quarterly strategic objectives review


Additionally you might need to set up tripwires. A tripwire schedules a review point and allows you to react when Unlike an inbound request or other interrupt, a tripwire is designed to prevent silent failure or lack of follow through. 

These should normally be set by any action that was important so nothing falls through the cracks.

  • drop everything
  • same day
  • next two or three days
  • most communications with prospects
  • customers problems–so neither falls through the cracks.

Let me give three examples

You have sent an email response to a prospect or a customer, pick a date that you will follow up if you don’t hear from them. Depending upon the situation, this might be a few days to a week or two. If you have suggested an action on their part or you are waiting for more information from them it’s ok to include your tripwire in the email.

A customer has a serious problem, agree with them when you will speak again (or text or email) even if there has been no progress on your side. For example, a daily status call even if there is no progress so they don’t feel you have forgotten about them.


We have talked about standard systems and procedures as a foundation for managing interrupts and the value in setting tripwires to make sure important situations don’t languish.

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