Making Decisions to De-clutter Your Organization

My wife and I are always looking for ways to simplify our lives.  Recently, she heard about a project called “40 Bags in 40 Days.”  In this challenge, you commit to de-cluttering a single area of your house every day for six weeks.  All excess items are placed in bags for donation or dumping. 

“That sounds like fun!” I said a little too enthusiastically.

“You and I have very different definitions of the word ‘fun,’” my sentimental wife answered.

Nevertheless, we attacked the challenge vigorously and unearthed a treasure trove of random items.  A VCR recording of an episode of Moonlighting.  A twelve- year-old package of funnel cake mix, stashed in a box with a funnel cake maker we purchased after a trip to the Texas State Fair. Over thirty different keys for unknown locks and homes of neighbors that have long since moved away.

Several days into the challenge, the obvious items had already made it into bags.  Now it was time for the really difficult work.  We reached the kitchen, where we paused, silently staring at the stacks of dishes in our cabinets. 

“What about our china.  Should we donate that?” I asked.

“You mean our wedding china?” my horrified wife exclaimed, once again reminding me of that fateful evening that I recorded Ghostbusters over our wedding tape.

We laugh because it’s funny, we cry because it’s true.

A long debate ensued.  There were so many happy memories tied to those cups and plates.  But we also acknowledged that none of those memories actually involved eating off of those plates in the last 20 years.  We had been waiting for a special occasion.  Unfortunately, the Queen of England still hasn’t RSVP’d.  So we carry the plates from house-to-house where they sit on a shelf. 

Unused, but emotionally charged.

The same is true in our organizations.  We carry around baggage from year-to-year.  Old systems.  Outdated processes.  Cultural norms.  Some of these things remain because we simply don’t see them anymore.  They fade into the background like wallpaper.  Other times, the emotional weight they carry makes them nearly impossible to change.  Here’s how to de-clutter your corporation to leave room for the things that matter.

  1. Clarify and Align Objectives:   All business processes, systems and policies should be in place to fulfill some strategic objective.  You must be clear on your destination before you can determine the best way to get there.
  2. Evaluate Objectively:  Asking the “keep it or dump it?” question can generate a lot of emotion, because it encourages black and white thinking.  Instead, list all of your alternatives (including the status quo) and develop criteria to make a fresh decision, identifying which of the alternatives best helps you meet your objectives, regardless of sunk cost. 
  3. Celebrate History:  If we do not take time to truly celebrate the usefulness and value of past processes and systems – more than just paying lip service – we run the risk of belittling the hard work of those who put them together, discouraging commitment to our goals.

For the past 35 years, we have helped clients focus on relevant facts and make good decisions to focus their energy in ways that make a difference.  If you are looking to de-clutter your organization, give us a call at (800) 386-5611. 








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