It sounds like a joke, I know. But you might be surprised how much “stupid stuff” becomes ingrained in companies – including our day-to-day roles.
This is not purposeful. People across all levels don’t always understand why they’re doing things, nor what value those things might be creating—or destroying. Often these things were initiated with a noble cause, but even when the environment has changed or the business needs have evolved, the processes sometimes do not. Nevertheless, this stuff just keeps getting done because it has become routine.
None of this is meant to be a commentary on the people who are doing the stuff. This is about the stuff itself, which only exists because you, as a leader (or someone like you), asked that it be done. By the way, if you are thinking there is nothing happening in your company that is blindly automatic with no benefit, you may need to take another look.
To bring attention to some of the repetitive activities that I thought were outdated, misguided, or generally not creating value, we set aside an entire day for people to ask themselves, “Why do I do this?” The idea was to make it fun and report to the rest of the organization what had been discovered, with no judgment. We called it “Groundhog Day,” in honor of the Bill Murray film of the same name where his character kept reliving one day until he got it right.
One of the findings from that day was a rather large daily report that was automatically sent to one of our printers from another division, which was no longer being used. Each morning, an associate sitting close to the printer simply threw away the report and refilled the paper tray. Groundhog Day caused the associate to pause, locate the source of the report (in Kansas), and request that it no longer be sent. It is so simple but so indicative.
You may think that keeping someone from throwing away a ream or so of paper each day is not going to save a company, but the real lesson is about thinking differently and questioning – why? It’s easier to successfully change the big things when you’ve proven you’re willing to change the little things.
Growth and improvement take change – in both the big and small things. Don’t underestimate the small changes, the elimination of silly, stupid stuff, like throwing out excess reports. While we perpetuate significant personal growth by setting big goals, this is an exercise in recognizing that the small steps matter. Although grit is often associated with the larger, harder goals in life, a lot of grit is also required in the relentless persistence and practice of making the best small choices daily, which, in turn, can also lead to a lot of growth.
Want to find out what you might be doing that could be considered “stupid stuff?” Go through your own personal “Groundhog Day” process. Throughout a typical day, ask yourself at every juncture if this is something you should be doing or thinking. Is there a better way to do this? Is this action or thought getting you closer to achieving your goals or becoming the person you want to be?
You will undoubtedly find that you are doing some “stupid stuff” that you could stop, do better, more efficiently. Which then can free you up to do some of the “smart stuff” that you already know you should be doing but just can find the time. Try it!