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Getting stuff done

Getting stuff done.
Over the years that’s become one of my tag-lines. I enjoy making small incremental changes in an organization that add a big punch to results. That means overcoming organizational friction. That means doing things that are common sense. That means showing determination. That means seeing the end. That means not being afraid to fail.

My experience is that people and groups that get stuff done regularly are those that put results and innovation above rules and regulations. I’m not saying that we should abandon processes, rules, regulations, etc. But when the rules and regulations inhibit employees from thinking, acting, and producing work then the rules are no longer benefiting the organization because they become barriers to progress.

Seth Godin encourages people to “Start Something” in his book Poke the Box.  Godin describes his seventh imperative “have the guts and the heart and the passion to ship.” He encourages people to poke, prod, try, and start initiatives. It’s the way true innovation is discovered.  

Steven Pressfield calls resistance the enemy in his book “Do the Work”. Pressfield promotes beginning over planning. His point it to overcome resistance by getting started. Then measure, adjust, rework along the way to make your output satisfying.

Why I like it.
I have a colleague that works as a usability analyst/engineer for our eCommerce sites. She combines her knowledge of usability with analytics data as a basis for making what would seemingly be small changes to an internet experience. She might suggest things like moving the locations of input fields, adding a cross-sell prompt, or changing the placement of a banner. Time and time again, her changes have proved effective at driving incremental sales in an eCommerce environment where the customer came with the intention to just reorder a depleted supply of single product.

I like this style of work because it shows that empowering those closest to the end-customer to make decisions drives good results. The analysis and decisioning is made close to the customer, not by an executive committee.  The people closest to the work are those who are most likely to battle resistance to get stuff done.

What it means.
This doesn’t mean that large project teams chartered by executive committees with big budgets can’t and don’t get work done. But these big teams are comprised of individuals and it is the individuals who overcome the resistance that get work done. Committees are easy targets for inefficiency and stagnation unless the group members find a way to just get started.

So get started. Do the work. Get stuff done. Find way that you can help to drive change.

Book Review – Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Poke the Box by Seth Godin is a quick and easy read. While some may confuse it with a motivational type book, Godin’s points are a bit deeper. The two word summary is

Start Something.

Godin says “I’m merely encouraging you to start. Often. Forever. Be the one who starts things.” Starting things is like poking the box to see what will happen.The manifesto is a call for people to shed excuses, fear, and procrastination and to pursue their ideas. That’s certainly not a new principle. But Godin states his ideas in a clear, concise, and easy to understand format that worth your time to read.

He gives examples of individuals and organizations to backup his statements that people need to push forward with their ideas. One such example was the first Starbucks didn’t sell coffee and wasn’t the company we have come to know today. It sold coffee beans. But Jerry Baldwin’s idea to get started led to the suggestions from Howard Schultz to offer traditional espresso beverages. Godin’s point is that “Poking doesn’t mean right. It means action”.

This leads to the argument that one of the top reasons that people don’t initiate work is fear of failure. People and organizations let the fear of failure paralyze them because failure is viewed as a negative event. Again, not a new idea, but tolerating failures because we can learn from them, because it makes us better, or because we can adjust and move forward is usually just given lip service in our society.

Godin goes deeper into the idea of initiating work by touching on cultural norms of conformity. From schools, to churches, to corporate america, we are trained, encouraged, and rewarded for staying within set boundaries. I could directly relate to this concept and previously wrote about it in a post entitled are you crazy enough to create change?

I recommend this book for your library. It’s a simple concept, yet can be so difficult to master.  If you are a manager of people, encourage them to poke the box. If you are an team member then start your ideas. Godin says “soon is not as good as now.” Go!