What Is Possible Is Not Always Right

How often do you decide to do something only because “you can”? When you really think about it you may realize that it is way too often. Did you just jumped in the car and drove half a mile to buy a bottle of water when you could have walked? Did you just came home and turned on the TV without really thinking about it and then not even watching it? Did you just sent an email on “hot topic” instead of picking up a phone and calling to the person in question? Did you just buy something without really needing it just because it looked nice and you had some money and free time?

Very few of us behave really responsibly and think through our actions before we go and do something. To think logically about every single thing we do all the time would be really taxing on our internal resources and we would overthink everything and not enjoy the life so much. But when it comes to business we should pay a bit more attention as the resources we are using are not just our internal (attention, willpower, etc.) ones but also external (company’s money, time of other people, priority of the stuff we work on, and others).

Time

This one resource is very easy to waste on things we don’t need or want. Did you just spent three hours sitting in front of a TV watching some movies you didn’t really enjoy only because the TV was on and it was easy not to go and do something else? You could go out with friends, spend time with family, exercise, read, work, learn to paint or take a walk and relax. And instead of these you decided to sit and mindlessly stare at something you forgotten about the next day. Why? Because you could.

Money

Just imagine a typical situation in corporate environment. Your boss came to you and told you that you have five hundred dollars to spend and celebrate some team success. What do you do? Will you think in terms of “I have 500 USD, let’s spend it,” or in terms of “I want to celebrate our success in the most meaningful way and I have 500 USD in case I need them.” The first approach is wasteful to company resources and may not even bring the effect you want to achieve. “Let’s all go to a fancy restaurant and order some expensive wine,” while most of us would prefer just to hang out in our favorite pub over couple of beers. You just spent five hundred dollars in a rather inefficient way and why? Only because you could. The responsible approach would have been to think first about what type of celebration is right for your team and then just figure out how the five hundred bucks fit in. And if you need just two hundred? So what? You had your fun and by acting like a responsible adult you even saved some money for others.

Attention

There are so many distractions in modern society. Social media, old-school media, overload of information coming from all sides. But only because the information is available it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to consume it. You should carefully pick what channels of information you want to follow and how much time you want to spend on it. Herbert Simon (winner of Nobel Prize for Economics) once said “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” In my case I decided not to buy a TV as it would just cause too much distraction. I decided to read only a selected number of online media and I do it only at specific times. The same goes to e-mail, instant messengers, and other types of online communication. It is only up to you to decide how responsive you want to be or whether you will be online and available 24×7 only because you can.

So what should you do?

Sit down and spend couple of minutes replaying your actions last week and try to understand the decisions that let to them. Did you do the things you did because they were the right things to do or because you just could?

 

What are your examples of situations when you did something only because you could without thinking whether you should?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

It’s not my job!

There are not many situations that irritate me more than people reacting to a request by words “It is not my responsibility” or “It is not my job, someone else should do it.” And sometimes it doesn’t even needs to be spoken but it is implied by acting (or not acting).

Let us consider a rather trivial example. You have a meeting with ten people. After the meeting everyone leaves and there is an empty cup on the table (someone just forgot it there). Now, what happens?

You have a person who sees the cup and decides to ignore it. It is not his job so why should he take it to the kitchen? It may be laziness, feeling of being too important for such a menial job, or just simple “I don’t care” attitude.

And now look at second person, someone who sees the cup and without a word grabs it to put it to a dishwasher. It is like a reflex for this person and she is not even thinking about who should do that. That shows a great sense of ownership, a desire to keep things neat, a way of thinking that will most likely show also in other aspects of her life and work. The way she works with customers, with the team, how is she approaching her job. She simply sees that something needs to be done so goes and does it without a word or thought whether she is the one who should do it.

Who would you rather have on your team?

The same can be seen in software development. A developer may say “It is not my job to test the code I just wrote, QA department should do it.” “It is not my job to review code of my colleague I need to focus on my own code.” Or manager saying “Why should I talk to this person who needs help, he is not from my department.” If you have culture like that you are in troubles. It shows a lack of ownership for the product, the company and the job. It shows very low team spirit and it is something you want to fix.

So what do you do? If this is happening you need to get back to basics and talk about values of the organization, why they are important and what does it mean to do things the right way. And obviously, you don’t just talk. You lead by example. Even if you are a team lead, a manager, a director you still need to be able to get your hands dirty when you see a job that needs to get done regardless how menial it may seem.

And if someone still doesn’t see why they should do work that is outside of their job description then reminding them that only by expanding their current tasks can they learn new things, develop and grow, should do the trick.

Let me finish with a personal story that illustrates what I’m talking about. I was heading an office of more than hundred and fifty people. On the team I had an office admin who was among other things responsible for accepting mail and deliveries. What happens when such a person takes a day off? Well, mail is still coming, someone has to take care of it, and no one else has it in a job description. What did I do? I just sit for a day at the reception desk and handled the mail, welcomed visitors and other small tasks that needed to be done. At the end it had a negligible disruptive effect on my day and my ability to get my real work done. And the best part? By doing it, I was more visible to the team. I lead by example. People would talk to me more as I was the first person they saw when coming to the office. And I learned something small about a job of a receptionist…

What does this mean for you? Do you see similar situations around you? How do you react? And how you do to improve the environment when people just don’t care?