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Decluttering Your Business

Every now and then, it’s time to declutter!

Whether it’s your home, your office, or your life, over the years you build up “stuff”. When you buy that cute vase or an extra office chair or you accumulate responsibilities, it all builds up. Personally I find it refreshing to just get rid of stuff from time to time.

It clears your mind, there’s less visual and intellectual junk to manoeuvre around, and you can see fresh and new ways to move on and ahead.
Well, decluttering works in your business as well.

Think for a moment, and I’ll bet you will recognise the clutter that has built up around you without your knowing it. Management guru Peter Drucker said “much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work”. This is so true. Management demands better (or is it more?) communication so our email inbox is bulging, we are in touch 24/7 on smart phones and tablets. Management is careful to avoid inefficiency, so everything is check-listed, and has to be signed off step by step adding layers to “efficiency”. Management is all about planning so half our day is filled with meetings. Management is all about achieving goals so we end up with endless objectives and to-do lists to tick off.

Some of this clutter in our business lives is actually a necessity.

Companies create teams in order to achieve things that individuals cannot achieve easily or efficiently. In order to do this some co-ordination, and hence some meetings and communication is essential. As teams grow in size and complexity of their tasks the “necessary” clutter can also grow. However the key is not to allow clutter to grow for the sake of its own existence.

One solution to business clutter is to periodically review what you do and ask yourself if you can do it in a less complex way to get the same result; if you can do it differently to save time; and if you actually need to do it at all.

This type of internal spring-cleaning needs to be led from the top and have the buy-in of all levels. Management must support it and not throw spanners into the works just because it is “not to their liking” and all levels must see the necessity of changes. It must be supported by policy that stops the clutter from returning.

For example, once you declutter the number of meetings you have, instil a policy that there should be no meetings unless there is a clearly achievable objective; or a policy that says no meeting shall last more than the appointed time and may not be adjourned to continue later. See how quickly you can get to the objective then!

In my view there are three types of clutter that most businesses of any size have to struggle against:-

1. Meetings;
2. Email; and
3. Complexity of the organisation structure.

Meetings are a necessity, if they are held for a clear purpose and are productive. Bad meetings suck the energy from you and your team. I have written elsewhere about bad meetings and how to make them productive (see teikoh.com blog-post June 29 at https://teikoh.com/effective-meeti/ ). To summarise the suggestions from that article here, in order to make your meetings effective you need to:-

• Make sure there’s a clear objective to the meeting;
• Ensure everyone knows their role in the meeting;
• Have a directed agenda;
• Work through the agenda;
• Review the key points;
• Agree follow-up;
• Evaluate the meeting – then STOP!

Email is another necessity if used (and dealt with) correctly. Otherwise they become a mind-numbing series of reminders, “thank you’s”, Wikipedia sized tranches of information, and pure junk. Every email whether useful or not, urgent or merely a note that could be delivered at another time, becomes a tax on the recipient’s time.

Learn to use your mail app properly. Create different folders and rules that put incoming mail into appropriate folders. Respond with “good” email etiquette yourself; for example, don’t tap a reply back just to say “thank you” or “OK” – only reply if you have something useful to add. When you send email clearly title the header so the recipients know how to categorise the message, don’t write a long email that would be best dealt with as a verbal or other briefing.

The third form of clutter in a business is the complexity of the business’ organisational structure.

In the larger business, divided into divisions, departments and task groups, complexity can grow through time, as new levels are added, new sub-groups, new co-ordinating committees or management positions. The addition of a senior manager adds complications around his or her support staff (more new positions!) how they co-ordinate with levels above and below, who they go through to work with management at the same level or above or below, and what protocols need to be invented to support all this.

However the complexity is not necessarily reduced in a small business, or even in a micro-business with just husband and wife. In the smaller, even 2 person business, unless you are absolutely clear who does what and to what extent, there could be utter confusion caused by husband choosing a marketing campaign while wife has designed a shop-front that conflicts with the campaign message – who is in charge of marketing and to what extent?

The best way to declutter your business is to review how you conduct meetings – and improve it; review your email policies – and change them; and ensure your organisational structure is as simple as possible, through logical relationships. The best way to make these one-off reviews “stick” is to then impose a policy that any bureaucracy and administrative system you introduce is justified in terms of time saved, money saved or made, and how the lives of team members and customers will be improved.

Now, tell me what you think? Is your business weighed down by clutter? Or is it lean and mean? Tell me how you cleaned up the junk!

Even better, go to teikoh.com and register your name and email and I’ll make sure useful articles like this and other great tools and resources to help you formulate strategy, provide leadership and grow your business are emailed to you directly.

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