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
Begin 2013 with, “What do you need to stop,” conversations with key people. Ask:
- What frustrates?
- What drains energy?
- What wastes time?
- What produces small returns?
- Which customers should be sent to competitors?
- Is it time to stop petting a pet project?
- What distracts from leveraging strengths?
- What has low impact?
- 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.
Schedule a monthly abandonment meeting. Carve off part of your business or organization and ask:
- Do returns justify expense?
- How much would it matter if we stopped …?
- How are we squandering strengths?
- How are these activities aligned with mission and vision?
I don’t remember when I first heard, “Not to-do list,” but its genius. Make one. Variations of abandonment lists:
- “Do less of” list.
- “Put it off till you’re tired and grumpyz” list.
- “Don’t care if it’s ever done” list.
- “Have someone else do it” list.
How can leaders and organizations get better at abandonment?
This was just what I needed to think through today Dan, thank you! I’m amazed how many times your topics catch me ‘just right’. Happy New Year!
Hi JT, Thanks for the good word. Perhaps we are on the same trajectory… 🙂 Happy New Year.
Hi, Dan ~ I have been contemplating “live intentionally” for this year and “purposeful abandonment” fits very well with that! Thank you again for your inspiration! :} Your post on Beyond SMART Goals and yesterday’s post have really helped in my “live intentionally” thought process as well. Thank you!
Wow! Thank you and all the best as you live intentionally in 2013!
A superb idea… Going to introduce the concept to my leadership team.
Love to hear their response and how it goes… feel free to email me, if you are so inclined dan(at)leadershipfreak(dot)com. Happy New Year
Leaders get better by being aware of what’s working, and what is making a difference. What processes are working well? What processes are “guilding the lily” but not producing forward movement? Where do people shine and give their best performance? Which things, out of all the things we do, are keeping us on-mission and on course, and which thing and processes have no, or worse, a negative value?
As always, thank you Martina for sharing your insights.
I love the idea of evaluating by forward movement vs. maintaining the status quo. Powerful and I think it may be threatening in some organizational cultures.
The art of letting go is generally uncommon for organizations. It is equally uncommon for people. The reason is simple- it takes harder and more courage to do that.
I think leaders and organizations can get better at abandonment by having realistic policy in place. They should ensure proper execution of policy. But this needs careful monitoring and policy making exercise. It should take all the important points into account. It needs multi stakeholders participation and representation while making policy. similarly, there should not be any vague rules that can be challenged or loop holed by someone. The leaders should ensure that there should not exist any gap between policy and practices.
Therefore, I believe organizations should have “Exit Strategy”. Such exist strategy should be based on outcomes. In case of maturity phase or decline phase, leaders should strictly follow exit strategy. Leaders should also use this strategy in case of worst scenario conditions.
Thank you Ajay.
You remind me that every project needs a “time to stop” in place. Determine what “not working” looks like before you start working to make it work.
Perhaps every organization needs someone walking around asking, “What are we stopping?”
Great way to jumpstart the New Year Dan.
Looking back at 2012 and what needs to be left behind let’s start by “abandoning” the notion that we ever want to be the “better side” of someone else. How much time did we “waste” last year trying to “fit in” or do it “just right.” The real question is “why?” do we dwell on it to begin with. I don’t have the answer but it seems to me what needs “reckless abandon” is precisely our misguided urgency and perceived need to have someone else’s approval and blessing on what we do or say when ultimately what drives our passion should be all about “our” and not “theirs.”
Easier said than done when society curtails how we think and how we act and how the “fear” of not conforming shakes the belief in ourselves and how we project who we truly are. Abandonment can be a very lonely place but only if we feel unsure as to our personal purpose and vision.
I hope 2013 finds me braver, more courageous, and more “daring” to be me with as much “reckless abandon” as I can muster and like the Chinese proverb states “let’s light a candle and spend less time cursing the darkness.” Cheers! 🙂
Hi Al and Happy New Year.
I feel real passion in your contribution today.
It takes courage to be yourself. While preparing my first webinar on writing blogs, I had to decide to just be me. Not everyone likes it. Not everyone should do the things I do. The only way to build our own life is to be our own self.
Hi Dan, you are right and not everyone will always like what we do but I am with you. Why have someone like the “me” I am not. To me it’s a travesty and a big “loser” all around to not accommodate the true “me.” How can we ever grow and learn if so much energy is spent on being the “other.” We all need to change, adapt and continually improve who we are but it has to happen for the right reasons. Starting from a false premise leads us down a dangerous “rabbit hole.” Let sincerity with sensitivity to others prevail but let’s not allow the “sin” to take precedence over the “sense” and maintain authenticity as often as we can. 🙂
Thanks, Dan, for all your posts, and this one in particular. I have been wrestling in my mind about an initiative in my school that does not have the wholehearted support of the participants, much less the rest of the school. It’s time to have a conversation with my school leader about abandonment or full implementation. I sure appreciate your insights. They have helped me grow as a person and leader.
Hi Diane, thanks for your contribution today. I can say there have been many times I should have listened more when there was lack of support. It’s challenging to do so.
It may be even more challenging to determine if it’s time to build support and press forward or cut something loose and move on.
Reblogged this on Simon Hamer and commented:
Well said – hanging on to useless methodology or worn out thought patterns will affect your results and have influence upon your reputation.
Yes Dan this is such an important question to ask, what to stop. Stopping things though has quite a negative press – it can be perceived as quitting or giving up. If before we start something we define a clear point of completion then stopping is easy – you have run the 26 mile marathon. It’s complete. Stop running. The great thing about this is that you regularly then have to decide if you want to continue with a new target or just leave as completed.
great post as ever!
Thank you Andy. Great addition. When a stop is planned it’s not a failure, it’s success, a celebration. Cheeers!
Hi Dan, Keep up the inspirational work! Happy new year.
Thanks and Happy New Year to you, too
I think I will start with the woman in the mirror. then I will be ready to apply this to my business..purposeful abandonment…the art of letting go. I was just telling my husband this morning that this year I want to be a better time manager…what better way to start than to adopt these processes…Great post!
Thank you Jeanne…when you share your journey, you encourage everyone. Happy New Year
Marshall Goldsmith had it right…”What Got You Here…Won’t Get You There!”
Wonderful quote. Thanks
I know a get-it-done-yesterday kind of guy who recently had a stroke which resulted in a brain-bleed and has left him with a large mountain of challenges to defy (I’m sure, Dan, that you can relate). He is struggling with not being that kind of guy right now. He’s lost not only some mobility, but a part of himself.
Following his healing process has made me think about how I prioritize things. That *Have Someone Else Do It* list is perfect for me right now.
Instead of saying “I will get it done yesterday”,
I can start saying “It will get done yesterday by someone else”.
Better, I can start saying “It will get done by someone else when it needs to get done, not necessarily yesterday.”
And this isn’t just about leadership; it’s also about building personal equilibrium.
Thank you Lynn Marie, It’s always exciting to read what get’s traction with others.
There are only three ways to get more time… stop something, become more efficient, or get someone else to do it, delegate.
Best wishes in 2013.
Dan, this post really resonated with me. I agree that all too often individuals and companies don’t take the time to review what they should ‘abandon’.
One thing I’ve learned – and share with all of my clients – is how powerful it is to know in advance those things which we don’t want to get drawn into. I call it creating a ‘non-negotiables’ list. This identifies projects, client types, financial arrangemets etc. that we don’t want to participate in before those opportunities are even in our sight.
I blogged on this a while back. If you can find a minute to read it, I’d welcome your thoughts.
Hi Bill, thanks for adding value. I can see how knowing our non-negotiable saves time and keeps things on track. It’s not good to draw too many lines in the sand but some lines are necessary.
Thanks for extending the conversation.
“Very thought provoking Dan”.Yes, certain situations in our working enviroment dictate acting or behaving in a certain way to some extent, (protocal). However never forget who you are and what you are got you to where you are. Always be mindful not to jeopardize your charactor when faced with challenges and difficult decissions. When deciding to cut ties with un-popular, or unnessasary programs I continually ask myself “what maks good sence”? Don’t be quick to listen to the ‘FLASH-MOB’… Thanks Dan
Thank you Steve.
Your contribution made me think about the problem of reacting to criticism. Critics often over-state problems and use terms like “everyone” to support their cause.
I hear the voice of experience from you.
The college my husband works at is the WORST when it comes to efficient use of resources! Like, ALL of the resources – financial, human, etc.
They’re too busy trying to impress each other and too busy being proud of themselves for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to be worried about little things like how to use finances efficiently and who is the most efficient to keep verses least efficient. It’s an unmitigated MESS!
So if a business, especially a school, wants to get better, my first suggestion would be this: Stop with all the political, in-school politics and posturing, and START hiring folks who are more interested in being productive and helpful than they are being well-liked and self-impressed.
Thank you Liz. Now tell me what you really think! 🙂 I feel your passion.
Playing politics, turf wars, CYA activities, Kingdom building and all the rest drain organizations. It’s a tough nut to crack.
One place to start is the tension between self-interest and organizational-interest. But in the end, the type of change you’re suggestion starts at the top. It’s pretty dangerous if it starts anywhere else.
Happy New Year
I have to agree. I guess it just fascinates me that the school is still able to operate at all with the way it’s run. Kind of like watching a bad car accident ALMOST happen. XD
Brilliant post and well timed as we are in periods of action for 2013 and beyond planning for our work! Looking forward to another great year of posts from you, Dan! Happy New Year!
Thank you rwynne…I appreciate your encouragement. Happy New Year!
Hi Dan, I’m brazilian and I’m a follower of your posts and ideas. I really apreciate your simple way to write (and in few words) about business and leadership. It’s really great and usually I tell my friends about some point of viewing that you bring to discuss.
Thank you for your advices! It has helped me a lot in my career! Beside of improving my english with new vocabulary.
Thank you Daniela. I’m thankful you took time to share a word of encouragement. Happy New Year.
This is one of the best posts I’ve EVER SEEN on saying “No”. It’s a real must read before taking on more with your New Year’s resolutions. My advice to clients is often “You don’t really have a strategy until you’ve intentionally said ‘No’ as a result of it.” Thanks for a terrific post.
Thank you da parson, Love your last sentence. Our mission, vision, values, strategy, plans, goals and objectives better teach us to say no… 🙂
Nice article! I also believe that organizations should apply the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. I agree with you, just say ‘NO’ to activities that yields very minimal results to the bottom line.
Your topics are such a blessing! They are so timely and help me stay focused and thinking. Thank you!!
Great for organizations, but for me, this is much bigger. Life advice for anyone embarking on, in the midst of, or needing to create significant change for themselves.
Gotta go now and write my “don’t do” list.
Leaders could benefit by doing a “Spring Cleaning” every quarter as I have implemented. The idea of Spring Cleaning in the middle of winter adds a bit of whimsy to the task and is easy to remember.
Outstanding insight. Too many people are crippled by too many “yeses” and the overcrowding of their existence. When a leader can effectively say no it reveals some good maturity. Nice!
Thanks Rick. Best to you.
I first read this post several weeks ago and as a testament to its impact on me, I am still thinking about it today. It is counterintuitive (and downright frightening on some level) to look at what we need to stop doing, or abandon – whether at an organisational or personal level; in order to grow and make room for the new.
The idea of the ‘Stop Doing list’ literally made my stomach turn, such is my addiction to action and to do lists! But what a powerful concept.
Elle Harrison in her book ‘Wild Courage’ also explores this concept, referring to it as ‘dying’. As leaders, we could do well to turn to nature and the seasons for inspiration and a metaphorical representation of this idea. Thank you, Dan.
This is a really very good conversation. This re-assures me that what I had been thinking during the past 6months or so now seems to be correct. Sending away some of the unrewarding clients to competitors!!! Refusing to take up unrewarding work. I have already started refusing unproductive paper work.
I believed that htis sort of thing existed only in India – my country. So this there every where.