December 28, 2009
Learning How to Stop
This is my last post about thoughts I had coming out of the NYC Lean Startup Meetup that I spoke at a couple weeks ago. Being lean, the discussion went at this event, means not doing extraneous things. While it’s true for startups that it’s important to make great decisions about what to do up front, it’s also true — especially as companies get larger and more important older — that organizations and individuals have to be vigilant about stopping activities that become extraneous over time.
This is HARD. Once things — product features, business processes, reports, ways of communicating or thinking about things — get ingrained in an organization, there’s never a natural impetus to stop doing them. Even the smartest and most thoughtful individuals often find themselves doing things that once made sense but no longer do.
We encourage people at Return Path to create space to work OTB (on the business), not just ITB (in the business). Take time not just to perfect what you’re doing and do it, but take time to reexamine what you’re doing and ask whether or not it needs to be done. My staff is going to start doing an exercise at least quarterly around pruning/simplifying activities.
Focus is not just about saying “no” to new tasks. It’s also about saying “no longer” to old ones.