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What You Stop Is Important

by David Brock on March 26th, 2008
Everyone I encounter, professionally and personally, has more on their plates than they could possibly accomplish. In virtually every business, organizations are trying to do more, with fewer resources and people, in shorter periods of time. That seems to leak over into our personal lives, with each of us over committing to each other.

At some point, you start seeing very dis functional behaviors: Stress levels high, tempers short, people unhappy, people frustrated, fingers pointing, blame being passed and so forth.

I’m working with one large organization that has undergone a series of severe resource cutbacks over the past 2 years. They have cut the resources, but they haven’t reworked the work. I encounter a lot of “thrashing.” This is characterized by a lot of start and stop, immense levels of activity, but nothing is ever completed and results aren’t being produced.

Too much of the time, I see people focused on improving the productivity and effectiveness—sometimes translated into, “How do I accomplish more in less time.” People never consider stopping things, they look at how they can change to do more. This breaks at some point. Organizations literally break, they fail to perform, management and shareholders find new people to do the job. Personally, we break down. Illness is up, bills to analysts/shrinks/pharmacists/our local barkeeper are up, the quality of our relationships is down.

Something has to stop! Actually that’s the answer–perhaps figuring out how to do more is really about what we need to be stopping. We can’t continue to do thing in the same way or faster, perhaps we should be focusing on what we stop.

Recently, in working with a client in a major restructuring, we spent most of our time focusing on what we had to stop. There was a significant reduction in resources (read people were gone). Rather assuming we would just accomplish the same thing with fewer people, the management team had the wisdom to sit down and focus on what they had to stop. This approach freed the team up, enabling them to redesign the work, finding better ways to execute their strategies and achieve the goals they hadn’t been achieving before. They are on a good path, only time will tell, but I suspect they will be successful. Prior to this, even with more resources, they were trapped they could do more. That wasn’t working, but they never took the time to look at stopping things. It took a painful restructure to get them to consider the question.
Professionally and personally, for those who aren’t achieving the results they expected, for those that are frustrated or can’t find the time to do what they “need to do.” Perhaps it’s time to stop—take the time to figure out what should be stopped and get back to basics and essentials.

Perhaps doing this will also enable us to take some time to stop and smell the roses——sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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