I’ve been working on embracing minimalism in my home, and as I’ve been reading up on it and discussing it with friends, it seems highly applicable for the workplace as well, so I thought I’d share some ideas, especially to help those of you running impactful organizations.
Minimalism isn't just for your home - reducing clutter in your workspace can have significant effects of your organizational performance. Whether you’re reading this for your personal improvement or to make your workplace more effective, I’d like to share some tips that seem universally applicable.
In general, the reason why we accumulate clutter and extra complication is because at our core nature, we’re experience seekers. We want to find the one new thing, the next great improvement that will make the difference in making us more successful. And when we have it, we want more. Recognize that desire for change and embrace it – that’s how we keep growing.
Here are my 5 favorite perspectives to keep in mind:
1. If you lost it, would you buy it again?
Each employee adds a valuable set of resources to the organization. They contribute unique dynamics, affect the culture, are part of a team, and produce results. Some employees do that better than others. Sometimes a job becomes less necessary over time as the marketplace demands change. If you can’t look at an employee and their job and be confident that you would hire those skills for that position again, it’s time to re-evaluate either the value of that role, or your employee’s performance.
Note: I am not advocating for letting employees go without good reason; in the case of a job not being necessary any more, those employee resources can be redistributed to be more effective parts of the organization; it’s often highly effective to repurpose people that are already familiar with the organization than hiring an “unknown” new employee.
2. Rent what can be rented
For smaller organizations, there is absolutely no need for you to hire staff with all the various talent areas needed to run an organization efficiently. Find marketing experts, outsourced CFOs and bookkeepers, HR consultants, IT support, legal advice and business/strategic/leadership coaches. You’ll get a lot more value without the overhead of having a heavily specialized staff.
3. Let go of the idea of getting your money’s worth. Be quick to admit mistakes. They help you grow.
No organization ever makes only the right investments. In fact, the most successful organizations have made significant mistakes. The difference between the organizations that succeed and those that don’t can often be traced to their willingness to try new things and pivot when they fail. Mistakes are a natural part of growth. No matter how much research you put into making decisions, sometimes they just don’t work out like we’ve expected.
Whether it’s a wrong hire or software implementation, or a new program that failed, take the initiative to make sure that you let go of things that aren’t benefiting you. Staying on a path that isn’t helpful for you just because you’ve invested time and money into it is a sunk-cost fallacy (that’s when people are hesitant to abandon a path they’ve chosen because they’ve invested heavily into it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be beneficial). Once you’ve spent the money, you can’t get it back, but that doesn’t mean you need to lose out from that bad choice anymore.
4. Discarding memorabilia is not the same as discarding memories.
How many things do you do “because that’s the way we always did it?” Change is not bad – but it can be hard for people to let go of old ways. Sometimes people are hesitant to effect change because of a sentimental attachment to the work of prior employees, or fear of making someone feel bad.
You can recognize previous efforts and contributions as necessary and valuable, but still move forward to adapt your operations to new methodologies that are more effective.
5. Sometimes, it’s more efficient to not be optimized.
We all have limits to our brain and processing capacity. The more complicated something gets, it creates both less room and more potential for error and consumes more overhead resources. Keeping things simple – even if it’s not the fastest – can often reduce potential for error, increase accuracy, and consume less management and overhead resources, making it overall more efficient. Applying this perspective depends heavily on the nuances of each situation, but very often, sometimes less is truly more.
I hope this gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your organizational structure to keep it free of “clutter” and keep you focused on achieving your ideal organizational impact with the least amount of stress.
I'd love any comments with examples of this helped your organization - hopefully it can help others if you share.
Giving credit where credit is due: Much of this was inspired by “The New Japanese Minimalism”, by Fumio Sasaki.