Purposeful Abandonment: The Art of Letting Go


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You employ systems and strategies for starting, maintaining, and moving forward. Adopt systems for stopping, as well.

People who can’t say, “No,” chase all the spilled marbles at once. They’re confused and empty handed in the end. Too many yeses distract, weigh down, and waste energy.

“In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, and the unproductive.” Peter Drucker

Abandonment conversations:

Begin 2013 with, “What do you need to stop,” conversations with key people. Ask:

  1. What frustrates?
  2. What drains energy?
  3. What wastes time?
  4. What produces small returns?
  5. Which customers should be sent to competitors?
  6. Is it time to stop petting a pet project?
  7. What distracts from leveraging strengths?
  8. What has low impact?
  9. What can be stopped?

Paperwork is on many lists of frustrating, energy drainers, for example. Are reports necessary or antiquated? How much time is spent completing reports that seldom, if ever, get used?

“Planned, purposeful abandonment of the old of the unrewarding is a prerequisite to successful pursuit of the new and highly promising.” Peter Drucker

You’re tough when it comes to endurance. Get courageous and tough on stopping things, too.

Abandonment meetings:

Schedule a monthly abandonment meeting. Carve off part of your business or organization and ask:

  1. Do returns justify expense?
  2. How much would it matter if we stopped …?
  3. How are we squandering strengths?
  4. How are these activities aligned with mission and vision?

Abandonment lists:

I don’t remember when I first heard, “Not to-do list,” but its genius. Make one. Variations of abandonment lists:

  1. “Do less of” list.
  2. “Put it off till you’re tired and grumpyz” list.
  3. “Don’t care if it’s ever done” list.
  4. “Have someone else do it” list.

How can leaders and organizations get better at abandonment?