Thursday, September 02, 2004

Shutting Off or Mopping Up? What to do with the "to do" list.

Making the Right Mistakes

Did you know that if you accidently write on a whiteboard with a permanent marker you can take an erasable marker and scribble over the "permanent" mark? The solvent in the erasable marker will allow you to erase it. Most of us have made this mistake at some point. It happens when we are in a rush, excited by an idea and not paying attention. Usually we only do it once and now you know it's fixable. Other mistakes we make in a hurry are not so easy to eradicate.

Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll, talks about the secrets of learning from mistakes and riding herd on rapid growth.

We know from past research that the majority of people in business keep a list of things to do each day. The problem is that a significant number of those lists have more than a dozen items on them, with little or no chance of getting done when planned. Our past research also shows that 64 percent of senior executives and managers work either a 9- or 10-hour workday, with a third working 11 hours or more. Rather than shortening the lists, people continue to try to accomplish more, with many stretching their workdays to do so. But trying to move too fast can cause more problems down the line. Fast-paced decisions, though expedient at the time, often ignore the long-term implications.

Q: What does the decision mean for employees? How does it fit with the organization's overall strategy and direction? What is the long-term cost vs. the short-term benefit? What advice would you give to others about growing their businesses?

I don’t think there any silver bullets when it comes to business advice. The main thing I advocate is to be contemplative about your business.

Wake up early every day and go to bed late. Spend the time in between thinking about what’s going on in your business and what you can do to improve it.

Create an organization that is contemplative as well, that thinks about how to do things better and takes the initiative to implement the improvements.

There’s an old test for insanity that I’ve heard about: You put a person in a room with open faucets spewing water and a mop to clean up with. There are no drains in the room so the water starts to fill up the room. A lunatic will grab the mop and start mopping – a sane person will turn off the faucets.

Based on what I’ve seen out there, I think a lot of businesses are mopping when they should be turning off the faucets.


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