Leading: Purposeful Abandonment–The Art of Letting Go

You employ systems and strategies for starting, maintaining, and moving forward. Adopt systems for stopping as well.

People who can’t say, “No,” chase all the spilled marbles at once. They’re confused and empty handed in the end. Too many yeses distract, weigh down, and waste energy.

“In order to grow, a business must have a
systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown,
the obsolete, and the unproductive.”
Peter Drucker

Abandonment conversations

“On a personal level, with a one-year old already at home and another child on the way, it’s imperative that I make as efficient use of time as possible to still maintain the same level of productivity others have come to expect and I expect from myself. Knowing when to say enough is enough on a project headed nowhere is key to maintaining not only a healthy work vs life balance, but in some cases your own sanity!” Andrew Brown
Begin right now with, “What do you need to stop?” conversations with key people. Ask:

  1. What frustrates?
  2. What drains energy?
  3. What wastes time?
  4. What produces small returns?
  5. Which customers should be sent to competitors?
  6. Is it time to stop petting a pet project?
  7. What distracts from leveraging strengths?
  8. What has low impact?
  9. What can be stopped?

Paperwork is on many lists of frustrating, energy drainers, for example. Are reports necessary or antiquated? How much time is spent completing reports that seldom, if ever, get used?

“Planned, purposeful abandonment of the old
and of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to
successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.” Peter Drucker

You’re tough when it comes to endurance. Get courageous and tough on stopping things, too.

Abandonment meetings

Schedule a monthly abandonment meeting. Carve off part of your business or organization and ask:

  1. Do returns justify expense?
  2. How much would it matter if we stopped …?
  3. How are we squandering strengths?
  4. How are these activities aligned with mission and vision?

Abandonment lists

“The concept of time management grows more important as the demands placed on leaner workforces continue to also grow. Successful business leaders understand the proper balance of what is most important and what can be delegated or even ignored. We task our staff with developing a list of the 5 most important things to accomplish each week and provide the support and accountability to keep on track. Hopefully, less time and energy is spent on things simply not important to our business objectives.”

I don’t remember when I first heard of a, “Not to-do list,” but it’s genius. Make one. Variations of abandonment lists:

  1. Do less of list.
  2. Put it off till you’re tired and grumpy list.
  3. Don’t care if it’s ever done list.
  4. Have someone else do it list.

Discuss with your team

How can leaders and members of our team get better at abandonment?

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