Lately, I’ve been writing about prioritization as an important aspect of leadership, identifying it as one of those skills that virtually never makes it on a critical competency list, yet is just that: critical to leadership effectiveness because of its impact on engagement and productivity.
An important aspect of prioritization is the ability to stop doing things, personally and organizationally, that, while once important, no longer make sense. This point is well made in a recent HBR blog piece. We’ve all seen what happens when a manager gets a bright new idea. It creates additional work without stopping any old work. This is not a good result. Employees get exhausted, the quality of work suffers, employee engagement lags and time available for important team-based project work drops. It’s just all to common for managers to ignore these consequences and say: ‘just weave it in.” They just must ignore all that Stop, Start, Continue feedback they are given. Yucch!
Effective leaders innovate in two directions: creating valuable new opportunities and shutting down obsolete things. At their best, they ask for entire processes to be reworked, an approach which naturally substitutes new work for the old.
At the team level, this is even more critical. Push a team to exhaustion and tasks will be done by individuals and rolled-up close to deadlines. Give a team needed breathing room, and real collaboration leading to innovation will happen.
There’s also a time for teams to be disbanded. Long-standing teams and committees that have outlived their value are still all too common.
So Sam, please don’t just play it again. If I hand you a new score, please shelve an old one!