If it looks too complicated, it is. There’s too much complexity around everything we do in business. It’s pervasive. I’ve written about the ease with which “no” has become the standard answer in the workplace. But complexity goes far beyond.
1. How does this benefit my customer?
Always start here. The concept of “customer” goes beyond external customers. Everyone has a customer somewhere – how is what you’re doing right now actually helping your customer, whoever they are? Chances are, if you’re even remotely struggling to answer the question, you’re probably wasting time.
2. What are we trying to accomplish?
This video about conference calls in real life is spot-on. Meetings for meetings’ sake and endless discussion are akin to “playing office.” What’s the goal? Do we need a decision? Do we need a volunteer? Do we need a leader? Do we need a new idea? Don’t ever get into anything without knowing what you’re trying to get out of it. And remember, you don’t need to form a committee to collaborate.
3. What are the history lessons?
Never go into any serious effort without the benefit of some background. Unless you’re on the cutting edge of scientific research, I’m confident there’s something to be learned from work that’s already been done. Don’t get too tied down in asking everyone or reading everything, but a healthy dose of historical perspective usually helps.
4. Who’s accountable?
How many times have you left a meeting or been part of some initiative with no clear accountabilities? Probably pretty often, I’d guess. Accountability in business is like bread for a sandwich. Without it, you just have a lot of random inputs that never come together and ultimately can’t be consumed.
5. When do you cut bait?
People don’t stay motivated around an idea indefinitely. There has to be progress. There has to be transparency around whether you’re moving the needle. If so, momentum will carry you. If not, don’t be ashamed about admitting it. If the idea is really transformational, people will stay engaged and persevere. If it isn’t, people will respect the courage to admit failure and move on to whatever’s next.
There are better places to waste time than the office.
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