Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Cut the crap: A leader’s priority

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories here.

Most leaders focus on creating a winning future for their organization; developing a strategic game plan that will beat their competitors and grow their business.

The priority is on doing something new; innovating to bring new capabilities to the organization and to attack new markets with cutting-edge technology.

Story continues below advertisement

The challenge is, however, that the new stuff is generally piled on the existing work portfolio and is treated as incremental to current resource commitments.

"How are we going to pay for the new strategy?" is the question that is invariably posed.

Dealing only with the new is a failure of leadership. If a new strategy development process does not deal with the crap that needs to be eliminated, that strategy could fail.

A new direction cannot be effectively pursued if elements of the old plan continue to draw resources of the organization.

There are simply not sufficient resources and bandwidth to do it all, and even if you did, the past will create inertia that will prevent you from moving to a new place.

A "cut the crap" analysis must be treated as a fundamental part of the strategy-building process and must be a vital ingredient of the new strategy's execution plan.

What current projects and activities are no longer necessary? How can they be eliminated? What resources can be made available to reallocate to new strategy from crap activities?

Story continues below advertisement

Create a crap list and make it long; create a keep list and make it small. The general tendency is towards the opposite, as people go to great ends to justify continuing what they are currently working on.

Make it extremely difficult to retain crap. Subject each crap item to rigorous review before deciding to keep it. Remember crap represents potential resources for getting on with new projects.

And beware of those who possess the crap. These custodians of the past are employees who are comfortable handling past activities; they enjoy them and they don't want to change.

They are managers of irrelevance and are critical to the crap-elimination process. If they are permitted to continue to do their thing, they will infect others in the organization and prevent them from adopting the new direction.

Identify these folks and manage them either into another assignment or, if they are unwilling to accept a new role, exit them with dignity.

Designate a "cut the crap" champion for the task. Make it a senior person in the organization that has the tenacity, perseverance and currency with employees to give the job the credibility it deserves.

Story continues below advertisement

Charge this person to make it happen and make it a critical component of their performance and compensation plan. Review their progress regularly and communicate results to the organization.

Make it matter to everyone. When someone declares they don't have the resources to execute the new direction, ask them how much crap they have eliminated.

Leaders should be more responsible for eliminating the unproductive; crap and vision should carry the same weight.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing), former executive vice-president of Telus, is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series, Be Different or Be Dead.

Report an error Licensing Options

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨