We Have To Do Everything NOW, So We Can Fail Faster

Seventh and last in a series about communication and change management.

I’ve got a lot of renovation projects started around my house. We installed hardware floors eight years ago, and still haven’t put the baseboards in. I know it was eight years because the night we put the last nail in is the night my god-daughter was born. In fact, we baby-sat her older sister while Mom & Dad (who’d been helping us) went to the hospital to deliver their latest.

When everything is a priority, important things get missed

When everything is a priority, important things get missed

The outside of the house is half painted, the garage needs new gutters, and I have the bricks but not the sand to re-lay the back patio so that it slope away from the house instead of towards it. I started that job when I took the old wooden patio out. I don’t remember how many years ago that was.

There’s lots of things we could be doing, and yet nothing seems to get done. We’ve gone from doing a little here (let’s get an estimate on finishing the tiling on the back landing) to doing a little there (oops, the playhouse needs repair! Let’s turn it into a garden shed while we’re at it – the kids are all grown up and don’t need it anymore.)

It’s demoralizing really. Lots of activity, no sense of progress. Companies and teams can suffer from the same organizational schizophrenia. When everything is important, then nothing is important, and nobody is clear about what to do next.

Fix #7 Focus

There’s a saying about how the cobbler’s children go barefoot because he’s too busy making shoes for everybody else. So I took my own advice. I stepped back to figure out what I was trying to accomplish over all. Then I picked one thing to do to get me closer to that.

Sooner or later we’re going to need to sell the house we’re in. The kids will all be moved out soon. The house is too big for just the two of us. Maybe we’ll find a little place out in the country. Or the mountains. Or maybe next to a slow-moving river in a little valley out on the prairie.

Regardless, we’re going to need to get our investment plus maybe a little extra out of it. We were never going to get there if we kept doing the same thing we are now, which is trying to come up with the perfect plan and budget.

Pick One Thing

We picked one project and we’re focused on that. We’re installing the baseboards,  re-painting the wall, and moving around some furniture and pictures. Then we can get our offices set up, and get some extra closet space to make the kitchen more livable. But the baseboards are going in. We’ve spent the last two weekends working, and the progress is tangible. At the end of today the pronouncement was “Let’s keep going!

It is so easy to plan everything out to the Nth degree, and let slip the time we could actually be doing things. Time is the one thing we cannot run down to the hardware store and get more of.

Decisions are Expensive

Making decisions is expensive. Holding two competing ideas, alternatives, or options in your brain at the same time, and choosing between them, costs the brain a lot of energy. Our ability to make quality decisions degrades with each subsequent decision during the day. Save your decision making energy for when you really need it. Once you’ve made a decision, act on it!

“Do Not Do” List

Leader’s make decisions. Those decision include what not to do. And that has to be communicated as explicitly as what you are going to do.  What if you made a “Not” list? List all the things that you’re not going to do? If need be, you can even make a “Later” list, as in “This might be next, but I’m not going to spend time and energy thinking about it now.”

Start With the End in Mind

Have a vision for where your company / team / organization is going. Then pick something, usually the most urgent “do now” stuff, and get it done. Something that if you focused on it for a set time would give you the best chance of getting closer to your goal. Give yourself a deadline. Remove all other distractions. Then do it until it’s done. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Focus precedes success, which generates momentum, energy, enthusiasm, and that elusive “employee engagement”.

What’s on your “do not do” list?

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3 responses to “We Have To Do Everything NOW, So We Can Fail Faster

  1. Pingback: Your Second Most Valuable Personal Resource | Practical Managers

  2. Bernie,

    I understand the point behind “failing faster.” However, I’ve never been a fan of the “fail faster” philosophy. I offer a contrarian point of view in the post below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    http://mryanwilliams.com/2013/09/why-fail-faster-is-horrible-advice/

    Respectfully,

    M. Ryan Williams

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