The April issue of Harvard Business Review had an interesting article entitled The Acceleration Trap which highlights a challenge faced by so many of my clients (if not all) particularly in the current economic environment. Organizations have simultaneously downsized personnel while trying to increase production which means that the associates left behind who were once operating at 80-90% production are now functioning at 125%+ on a daily basis. Every organization goes through periods of increased productivity but The Acceleration Trap occurs when organizations rev up to 125%+ and instead of revving down after the project or mission is complete, leaders expect the employees to continually operate at the new higher level. In other words, that higher pace becomes the new normal.
As you might imagine, the article goes on to point out the potentially negative impact of consistently operating in high gear and outlines some strategies for decelerating such as stopping the action and deciding how to make decisions but as a strategic planning consultant, it was the suggestion surrounding strategic planning that most caught my attention:
Be clear about strategy and more importantly, ask the question, "What should we stop doing?" When working with clients, it is always one of my favorite questions and ultimately one of the most thought-provoking questions we can ask as business leaders.
No strategic planning discussion is complete without also discussing actions and activities that need to stop. Otherwise, we're only perpetuating the trap by piling more on an already overfull plate. But you don't need a strategic planning session to begin to notice the superflous activities that occur needlessly in your organization. Here's an activity for you:
Pull your team together. Get an assessment of where they spend most of their time and ask this question: What activities are you currently engaged in that if you stopped doing would have absolutely no negative impact on accomplishing your goals?
You may be surprised by what you hear.
Continue to be great!