The Organizational Garage Sale

Managers have a tendency to create layers…whereas, leaders understand that their real work lies in peeling those layers away.

If there is one thing that educators do not do…it is get rid of anything.  “You never know when I might need this again…” is just a staple of many an educator’s vocabulary.

And very often, the same rings true for our organizations and institutions.  We hold onto “stuff” and “ways of doing things” long after they’ve lost their usefulness.

We live with this fear, as people and organizations, that as soon as we get rid of something, ends up being the same time we need it again…

And for that reason, we have the choice of living with clutter, or an unending search for space and ways to store things more efficiently.  Things we often no longer need, or will never use again.

To go against this way of thinking is mentally chafing.  It rubs up against our human nature…which plays out similarly in our organizational cultures.

Which is why we have so much stuff…we find it incredibly difficult to give it up, even if we don’t use it anymore.  Even if deep down inside we know we will never use it again.  We would rather put it in a box, on a shelf, with the hope that we will use it again…than to put it out into circulation where someone might be able to get some use out of it.  We find it much easier to pile on, than to pare down.  It is just our nature.

We, as people and organizations, have this tendency to think in terms of addition…of more.

Our brains have a tendency to send out a positive vibrations when we think of the word “add“.  Consider words associated with “addition“…plus, gain, more, boost, expand, etc.

Whereas, our brains experience a similarly opposite effect when we hear the word “subtract“.  Consider those words that are associated with “subtraction“…minus, loss, decrease, diminish, dwindle, etc.

More has become a societal overwhelmer.  An endless search…to add.  A mental parasite that attaches to us and our organizations.  We never want less.  We struggle at every opportunity to downsize.  It is almost painful.  We even become wistful about those things we give away…even if we will never use them again.

We are constantly in this search for more…in our life, in our work.  The only problem…it does not satisfy.

It takes real discipline to pare down…to move to less.  To take away, to minimize.

But that is just what we have to do…in our lives, as well as in our organizations.  We have to declutter, to have the discipline to focus on less.  Which is the key to less…discipline.

Great leaders look to create agility.  To pare down their organization to the core of important.  To make it healthier by focusing on the necessary, while cutting and trimming away the clutter that remains.

More and more, we see people worn and tired in our organizations because of the overwhelming amount of things we are trying to do.  This constant addition of what needs to get accomplished becomes overwhelming.  Too many choices, too many focuses, does not allow us to get more accomplished.  Rather we end up getting less done and usually on a more superficial level…as we become even more tired and more overwhelmed.

Which is why, sometimes, we have to create opportunities for organizational garage sales.  Chances to get rid of the clutter.  To slim down our organizations and rid them of those unneeded structures and “stuff” that get in the way of focus and progress.  That weigh us and our organizations down.

Maybe it is a good time to look at doing less…and doing it better.


1 thought on “The Organizational Garage Sale

  1. Great thoughts, David. I think the “just in case I need it” mentality is pretty pervasive, and not very helpful.

    The challenge is that most organizational results are produced by organizational structures, and if we don’t really understand what structures produce specific results, it’s easy to grow attached to everything and become fearful of streamlining or changing anything.

    But if we know why we’re doing each thing we’re doing, preferably because we have it in writing, we can be much more purposeful about culling the list down to a manageable number of priorities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s