Elements of Strategy, Part 6: Do More by Doing Less

As humans, we get very attached to things: other people, TV shows, furniture… you name it. The more time we spend around these things, the more we think we need them.

The same thing happens at work: we become very attached to the things we do, and assume we need to keep doing them.

Unfortunately, that makes for bad strategy. Sometimes you have to let go of the status quo, and do less to do more.

Breaking up is hard to do.

Strategy is the art of doing things differently. Unfortunately, unless you have infinite capacity (if your workplace does in fact have infinite capacity, please call me re. potential gigs there) you can’t do things differently by continuing to do the same old stuff: for every new thing you start, something old has to stop.

This represents a risk. What happens if the new thing doesn’t work? What happens if the old thing was actually more important than you thought? This underlines another essential strategic truth: no pain, no gain. Doing things differently – and by extension, doing things strategically – involves risk. You can mitigate that risk through SWOT analyses, pilot projects, etc., but ultimately you’re going to have to let something go.

More importantly, you’re going to need to make the case to management about what you need to stop doing and why that’s going to pay dividends. They may be even more attached to the status quo and threatened by change than you are. Arm yourself with an intimate knowledge of their priorities, triggers and concerns, so that you walk into the room speaking their language.

In a world of limited resources, there’s no alternative.

What could you be doing less of today, to do more?

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