N.R.N.R. is an acronym I’ve started using. It means “not responsive, needs reminders.”

It comes up when I’m trying to accomplish something that requires input or expertise from other people, which is often.

Some of those other people are very responsive, in that they return emails and calls in a timely fashion. They allow information to keep moving. They allow decisions to be made and project dominoes to fall. They honor, and fan, momentum.

And some of those other people are not responsive, in that they don’t return emails or calls in a timely fashion (or at all). They prevent information from moving or decisions from being made.

Assuming I want or need to keep working with the latter — perhaps they have an outsize talent, provide an invaluable resource, or simply sit above me in the food chain — I know I have four choices:

  1. I can try to change them, which may take a lot of time and coaching.
  2. I can allow frustration to consume me, which may take a lot of personal energy.
  3. I can wait, which could ruin my momentum and cause me to miss deadlines, i.e., look bad.
  4. I can acknowledge that this person or group’s non-responsiveness is a fact — like a snowstorm or a pothole or a bad call in a game — which means I should plan accordingly.

Assuming I choose choice four, which is often most pragmatic, when I email this person or team, I add two or three events to my calendar, spaced out over time, that simply list the person or team’s name followed by the letters NRNR. That prompts me to nudge the non-responsive people in my life at a limited cost to my own systems and workflows. I usually get what I need . . . and sometimes they even improve over time, allowing me to drop the acronym from their name.

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