On Addition by Subtraction
Speaking with one of my crew recently and he made the very sage comment with regard to a strategic issue we’re dealing with at the moment:
It’s a case of addition by subtraction
I’d never heard this phrase before and I asked him for a translation. The guts of the issue is that you can often get a lot better by removing things that clog you up or hold you back. In effect and expanding the analogy, the removal of a cancer has a positive impact on your health!
This can the in the form of processes, procedures, people, clients or whatever.
Thinking further about that phrase, I realise just how powerful it is – often times you become more welded to the process or context rather than focusing on the outcome you’re striving to achieve. It can be that you’ve always done “stuff” so you keep doing it, your loyalty to people (as staff or customers) or a supplier with whom you have dealt with for years makes you unable to see beyond your own version of reality.
You become blind to the issue and don’t take action when you really know that you should.
Reading “Leading Teams” by Ray McLean has alerted me to the fact that, as leaders, we need to listen to the feedback from our people (and our gut) when things start going wobbly. It is also imperative that action is taken sooner rather than later to deal with the issue.
We recently had an issue where we changed suppliers in our business. The effect of the change has been revolutionary – we’re getting better service, more personalised information and tailored reporting for our needs. We’ve also gained access to a truck-load more options that were available through our previous supplier that, for whatever reason, they had decided to withhold from us. This has enabled us to increase our offering and provide a greater range of solutions to our customers than were were able to before – not because they weren’t there, but because they weren’t made available to us. Outcome? Far more sales for us and our supplier, happier customers and better outcomes for all concerned.
We have subtracted, and it has lead to addition.
Similarly, over the years, we have found that where there is a change in staff, the outcome can be exceptionally positive. I recall once occasion in our business where we acted too slowly to remove a “cancer” from the business. By not acting more quickly, the damage they created was significant and took some time to repair. I must admit though, that once they had gone, the reflection with the rest of us was “we should have done that sooner”.
Due to our loyalty to them and wish for the person concerned to take the opportunities to develop and become the best version of themselves, we stayed in the situation far too long. It ended up that their best version of themselves wasn’t what we needed/wanted!
Can you see opportunities for addition by subtraction in your business? Are there areas where you’re “blind” and unable to see beyond your version of reality?
You are not alone.
You can do something about it.