Chances are, like me, you grew up with a junk drawer in your kitchen. That junk drawer was home to everything from pieces of string to rubber bands, from thumbtacks to Tippex. In fact, if there was anything you didn’t know what to do with, it was “tidied” into the junk drawer. Even if you moved home, the contents of the junk drawer came with you from one house to the next. Even when we eventually flew the nest and moved out to build our own families, we also established a new junk drawer.
My wife is a minimalist, so we don’t have a junk drawer. I count myself lucky to have survived several waves of decluttering over the past decade and a half, I am still here. While it can be frustrating not to have somewhere to dump/hide/keep/tidy that widget you may just need someday, it is great not to have clutter that occupies valuable mental bandwidth. This brings me to the point of this week’s “minimal” Thursday Thought.
When I run workshops with teams, I encourage letting go of old initiatives, processes and procedures in order to free up organisational bandwidth. This is essentially an emptying of the organisational junk drawer.
What’s in Your Drawer?
There are some questions to ponder before I offer some examples of what is in the organisational drawer. We can consider these questions as individuals and as organisations.
On an individual front, our drawers often contain outdated assumptions, heuristics, habits and biases. More toxic contents include grudges we hold. Such grudges are akin to drinking poison and hoping the person against whom we hold the grudge will die. It is not healthy at all – I am still working on letting go of my own, it takes time.
As for organisations, some questions to consider include: What are we holding onto at the expense of something new? What rituals do we maintain even when we know they exhaust our energy, burn our bandwidth and deplete our resources? Imagine we could redirect those resources somewhere else? Are we clinging to an outdated business model? Are we optimising a melting iceberg?
Here is a much too common example:
Many CTOs are burdened with technological debt. Legacy organizations accumulate systems and servers in a mammoth junk drawer. These brave souls are denied the major technological upgrades they so desperately need.
Instead, they are forced to paper over cracks, sometimes because finance teams won’t allocate the necessary funds for an overhaul. Other times, they would rather overachieve their budgets to collect a nice bonus, while the technology team bear the brunt of that decision.
The real tragedy is not just that budget is squandered on the operation and maintenance of legacy (often defunct) systems, but it is also that the creative energy of the teams who maintain these Frankenstein / zombie systems is consumed so that they have no time nor energy left to be innovative.
Their innovation potential is squandered on firefighting instead of advancement.
I devote the final chapter of my book, “Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life” to this concept of letting go of thoughts, hurts, processes, business models and even mental models that no longer serve us. It is available anywhere you find books and is also available on audiobook.