Sunday, August 17, 2008

There's Clutter, then there's Clutter

When I posted recently about clearing out clutter, I had a couple of queries deserving response.

One of my work associates read the post, slipped quietly into my office and asked, in a hushed tone, “Joe, who did you tick off now?” I got a good laugh; the post was not directed at anyone. I simply was fed up with my own propensity for junk to pile up on my desk. As most of my posts, I wrote this one to myself.

Then, Joanna Rothman posted a comment asking about those who stay organized with everything out. Is this clutter? She poses a great point.

Many jobs require horizontal surfaces to be covered with relevant material. In particular, architects, project managers and building planners often need to work with large sheets of paper. They do no good rolled up in a drawer.

As in many things Lean, identical issues can be value-added in one setting and pure waste in another. Recall our usual revulsion at conveyor lines; yet in the chocolate factory it can add value by letting the gooey mix solidify before going to the packaging line.

To Joanna, I’d suggest the difference is in the intent. To answer the question “Is this piece of paper out because I need it or because I’m procrastinating trashing it or filing it?” If the former, leave it out; if the latter, well, it’s just plain clutter.

And each of us knows the difference.

So, keep getting rid of clutter. It just gets in the way.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Why do we tolerate clutter? Is it a crutch? Is it an effort to hide the work we don't want to get done? We'll never know while it surrounds us.

Gotta get rid of the messes. The physical messes. The email messes. The relational messes. The structural messes.

All of them are clutter. Getting in the way. Distracting us.

The leader has enough distractions already. Why do we put more in our way?

Start with your desk. Then de-clutter your email inbox. Then, go make an apology to someone you’ve offended.

De-clutter. Daily.

It is essential.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Passion and Tools, Part 2

I wrote recently about passion for a topic and the tools to excel in that topic. Here’s an example.

GTDtimes is a blog surrounding David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.” GTD is a wonderful system to help us deal with the crunch of “stuff” coming our way. In mid July one practitioner published Cool GTD Gear to Motivate Everyone in your Organization. A very good post, well conceived on tools for doing GTD.
In the comment section of the post, one reader said:
I was enthusiastic to the point of trying to mandate GTD among my team of 20 about two years ago. I only had spotty success and found myself doing what you have just described here…REMINDING people to follow the program. I have found that this road is a tough one. A different road I chose was to have everyone work on projects together in a group collaboration system. At least for those projects, we were getting things done and communicating about it. if they were not working on a project for me, I learned to let them do what worked for them.

There you see it. A leader gave out tools and sought to motivate his team. Yet it didn’t really take.

The passion never took. And, left only with tools, the implementation was spotty.

Last week I heard a consultant present on the change process. He described two needs. The first was for alignment; getting all folks to understand the direction of the organization, in the right spots, equipped to achieve organizational results.

Yet, a second need remained which he termed atunement, the ability of people to buy in, at an emotional level, with these goals.

Alignment gives tools, yet atunement breeds passion. How does this happen in an organization? How do we, as Lean Leaders, build this passion? I’m learning this myself and welcome your input.

Be passionate and live it.

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