One of my clients (thanks Mindy) recently introduced me to a book called The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem by Chris McGoff. While I’ve found several useful concepts in the book one of the most powerful is the definition of the word “decide.” Notice the make-up of the word: De-Cide.
What do the words pesticide, homicide, fungicide have in common? They (and many others) all end in “cide.” The – cide ending originates from the Latin word caedere meaning to kill. It concerns death, destruction, extermination and deliberate killing. There is even a public execution connotation to the word meaning “to put to death.”
In our corporate world we’ve mistakenly come to believe that when we decide, we’re making a decision about what “to do.” But when we decide what to do, we never decide what to stop. It’s a little bit like the overwhelming morass that our governments have gotten into; every year our legislatures add more and more laws to the books, they just never kill any and so our laws and regulations have become so voluminous we can hardly act freely any more. In our corporate life when we continually decide what to do and seldom decide what to stop doing we spread our precious resources thinner and thinner.
See if you can make this shift with your team. When faced with a decision, spend more time figuring out which alternative you are going to kill. Figure out the consequences of killing that particular option. You’ll notice some deep seated attachment and engagement that you never uncovered when you were decide which alternative to “do.” There will be many people in your organization that may have spent many years honing their skills performing the alternative that you’re about to kill. How do you think they’ll react? They’ll do everything they can to preserve their job and skill set. They’ll do it overtly. They’ll do it covertly. But this is exactly what happens when you decide what to “do” versus what to kill. While the priorities have shifted to the more important task that you decided to “do”, nobody told the people doing the other alternative to stop or shift their resources to the higher priority item or to cut their project to the bare essentials. Thus, we are constantly looking for resources to accomplish all of the high priority items and we create work forces that feel overwhelmed and over extended.
Instead, try deciding. Try deciding what to kill. Try dealing with the fall out and consequences of telling people that we’re no longer doing that activity or project. Help them get reassigned, retrained, more engaged in the activities that you’re not killing.
Maybe you’re very good at prioritizing your work. However, when you prioritize your list of 30 activities rather than deciding which ones to kill, you will still have a huge amount of resources working on priorities 16-30. If you will decide, you’ll notice that you have more than enough resources to accomplish the top 15 priorities.
Start de-ciding! You’ll find yourself and your company suddenly much more productive.