Some friends of ours reached peak ‘stuff’ last year. They were overwhelmed with the ‘stuff’ they had in their house and realised it was causing them unnecessary stress. As a family they decided to implement a new rule – if anything new was brought home, two things needed to be given away. The one-for-two rule as it became to be known. The results haven’t been magical over 12 months, but there is a noticeable difference. They comment about how it helps them reduce the things they purchase (‘do we really want to give two things away for this?’) and frees them to give away things they never really needed.
Organisational policies and procedures often work this way too. Steve Blank calle it ‘organisational debt‘ and in this article Aaron Dignan expands the thinking further. Any organisation that has policies and procedures (i.e. every organisation) has policy and procedures that are no longer fit for purpose. Either they are irrelevant or a catch all and therefore meaningless.
Pause for a moment and think of the organisation you work for or one you know well. How many policies, procedures, or business processes can you think of that are a pain or irrelevant? My guess you can think of more than one. I was told on the phone last week that to make a change I could bring the details over in person or I fax it to them.
In Dignan’s article he mentions three ways to reduce this debt: bounties, participatory governance, and ‘don’t rush into it.’ And perhaps we can add a fourth – the one-for-two rule. Or it that feels too harsh, a simple one-for-one rule might also help. For every new policy, procedure, or process created, another one must be ‘retired’.
The choice is up to us.