Stop doing more : do better

Summary : we are all influenced by what we measure and the way we measure it. The “do more” rule has been the golden one for a long time…until we realize that’s there’s not much room for improvement anymore. So, how to improve without trying to do more ? By trying to do better. That will help the emergence of new approaches that will lead to new ways of doing things where the room for improvement is great. But it means we define what “better” is and implement it into our metrics.

It’s hard to start doing anything when one does not know how to measure what it will produce and how much things progressed. Facing new contexts, we have two possibilities. The first is to keep on doing as usual and, while we don’t have the relevant indicators, do it with no regard for common sense or even do nothing since it won’t change anything on the indicators we know. The second is to wonder what matters and build a relevant new frame of reference.

We are used to behaviors that look logical at first sight. Keep the same measurement system and try to do more. What is possible with new approaches because lot of progress can be made is irrelevant with approaches that come close to the end of their life-cycle, when the the curve of “more” is tangent to the curve of the limits of the system.

A little aside before going further… That’s because we tried to do more with industrial and taylorian logics applied to activities, businesses and a whole part of our economy that did not fit that organizations lost a part of their operational effectiveness (one can’t run 100m in 0 seconds…) and used two levers to keep their promise in terms of profitability : cutting expenses believing it was the same as reducing costs, what put their future at risk while weakening their ecosystem and stakeholders (suppliers, employees etc…) and go on the financial markets to find the money they did not make through operations, making markets become a place to make quick money instead of a place where money is invested to sustain businesses.

So, let’s go back to our reflection.

We need to find new approaches to start new organizational systems that are at the beginning of their learning curve. What would make “more” possible again. But “new approaches” is quite a vague word. “New” may also mean being off the point and cause regression. Moreover, basics stay the same : organizations produce, employees contribute to production, customers consume, investors invest and want their money back and, in the end, the whole system needs to create more money that it consumes. Adopting a new way is only worth when, before allowing to do more again, it allows to do better.

So, instead of thinking about “more” we need to start thinking about “batter”. What is quite difficult because there’s still few reflection on that, ideas are not very mature and very few businesses try to adapt their definition of what matters.

• If I sell more and make more revenue, I’m doing more. But do I do more in terms of shared value with my ecosystem, do I help new sustainable markets to emerge ? Am I building my success or my grave ?

• If I produce or deliver faster I’m doing more. But what’s the price to pay in terms of burnout and psychosocial risks that will have a big human cost one day or the other.

• If I spend, using the common image, 110% of my time for tasks that are immediately productive I’m doing more. But won’t I benefit from taking time to help my colleagues doing a better work, maybe on projects I’m not directly involved in but in which each minute I’ll invest will be more helpful that if I had used this minute for my own needs (you know…diminishing returns..). Is investing a little of my time into the future competitiveness of my fellow-workers what will help us doing more tomorrow ?

• If, as a project manager, I establish an heavy and restricting governance system, I do more. But woudn’t I do better by leaving room from flexibily, what will diminish the load on the management team, will help the project staying aligned with evolving needs, make contributors more accountable, allow leaders to focus on what matters for them ?

• When I organize 10 meeting to repeat the same thing to make people aware of our current challenges, I’m doing more. But maybe sharing my thoughts once in a space open to all to star a global conversation would be better ?

• When performance does not depend anymore on the quantity of resources but on how they combine together, is pushing each resource to its limit a better way to do or should we allow time to learn to combine with each other, find each other, behave with each other ?

•….Your own stories are welcome…

Knowing that no one will never run 100m in zero seconds, knowing that the curve our current system is getting everyday closer the the curve of the maximum it can deliver, shouldn’t we start thinking about what would be the “better” that will lead to new approaches, make us see new horizons ? And use it to measure how we do business ?

 

 
  • http://twitter.com/marie_wallace Marie Wallace

    l would definitely agree that “more” is not always “better” and despite the fact that we all know that quality trumps quantity this is not always applied within the enterprise. l suspect much of this is a measurement challenge; what we believes needs to be done, is not always what needs to be done. This is where l believe the combo of social (deconstructing the process of doing work) and analytics (the discovery of value patterns within work) can play a critical & transformative role. As l said at an IBM event a few weeks ago “If we don’t know what contributes to a specific business outcome, how can we improve it” :-)