Trust me, you’ve been here:

You’re in your planning session. You’ve been locked in a room for a solid day or more. This hostage crisis has gotten your juices flowing. You stare at a list of promising growth projects.

Then it happens.  You have a list of promising growth projects staring you in the face and everyone in the room gets a certain look

You can almost hear the pop of circuit breakers blowing and see little puffs of smoke from people’s ears as gaskets blow.  “We already have so much – too much – on our plates.  How will we do this too?”

Perhaps in their anguished cry lies the answer.  Years ago, Peter Drucker suggested several policies for organizations who are trying to grow aggressively.  Here’s policy #1:

Abandon what is no longer productive or is a mistake.

While not novel (think of Jim Collins’ “stop doing list”), it’s one of the simplest yet most difficult policies to enact.  How often do we take the time to dig into our existing portfolio of work and say, “That project had its day. But its day is over.

One option is to shelve your new ideas for a time when you’re not as busy. But before you delay your growth projects, here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Streamline. Too often we just keep doing things the same way  even though we know they’re leaking effort all over the floor? My BPI/Lean/Six Sigma friend, Mike Posdal (aka The Process Doctor), once saved a hospital significant money in how they ran their kitchen for goodness sake! Do you think maybe we’re leaking effort too?
  2. Leverage the next layer.  One way to free up our high potential leaders is to challenge them to train one of their staff members to take over 20% of that high potential leader’s responsibilities.  Yes that takes time. Yes, high potentials may resist because they love being that go-to person.  But it will either provide additional challenge and opportunity for yet another person in the company – or reveal that these next-level team members have reached the limits of their capability and/or interest.  Which leads to…
  3. Upgrade.  I leave this to last because it tends to be expensive, time-consuming, and  emotional.  But in this age that seems to be a permanent do-more-with-less era, we can’t afford to have the people still onboard be less than stellar, eager, and with huge upside potential.  And let’s face it, there are many capable, hungry people out there to choose from right now.

So maybe the choice between over-loading our team vs. shelving those growth projects is a false one.  Perhaps there’s more capability hiding in our organizations if we just take a few moments to look.