Clutter

I’m always surprised how the clutter build up.

Whether in my client’s organisations, or my own. We add new things – ideas, processes, connections – faster than we remove them.

In the early days, that’s fine – we have room and we’re growing physically – products, services, people, premises, but before long we become established and our task is to master what we do, more than add new things of maybe only marginal importance. Like unwanted guests at a party, they require our attention but don’t add much in return for it.

And these things that we add seldom arrive alone. They come as part of a package, like those software programmes and apps that are “fully featured” and contain far more than we want or will use. We may not need these extra features, but they still occupy storage and processing space.

The same seems to apply to organisations. We know what the Pareto principle tells us – that 80% of our impact comes from 20% of our resources but we often fail to follow up on it. De-cluttering an organisation can be complicated and contentious, and our loss aversion bias makes us reluctant to let things go – but if we want to keep ourselves flexible, resilient and effective we need to face it down on a regular basis.

Ideally, everybody in our organisation would be on form, on target, engaged, curious and committed. Every customer profitable. Every supplier reliable.

Reality of course is always different, but that’s not a reason for accepting it.

The clutter builds up unseen. We get used to it, walk past it, until it becomes invisible. It weaves it’s way, like bindweed, through the important stuff and like bindweed unless we get it early, is hard work to get rid of.

We are in times of rapid change, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. If we are going to avoid falling behind, we need to have the capacity to be agile. To learn what we need to, and unlearn what we don’t.

Dangerous stuff, clutter.

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