The world around us is filled with CRAP.
CRAP describes the stuff that gets in the way of getting things done; obstructions — the grunge as Tom Peters refers to it — that impedes progress towards a stated goal.
In business, CRAP could be projects and programs that are no longer relevant given the new strategic game plan developed by the organization. For example, if the new marketing focus were shifted from consumers to businesses, customer communications and social media programs targeted at the consumer segment would fall into the CRAP category and could be scrapped or at least significantly reduced.
In our personal life, CRAP could be the distractions and red herring that cost us progress towards our ultimate career or life goals. For example, if your career ambition were in business and you were tempted to take an extended vacation just after graduation, the vacation time you intend to take that could be spent on advancing your career could fit the CRAP definition.
Or chasing many potential opportunities rather than focusing on a selected few that were closely aligned with your desired end game is a CRAP activity.
CRAP is a critical ingredient in the progress equation and it gets relatively little attention as compared to the new stuff that should be done — doing new stuff is more sexy than eliminating old stuff.
CRAP is vital to our growth ambitions and should be talked about for these reasons.
There is insufficient time available to both take on new things and continue to do current things. Everyone has limited bandwidth and a sharp laser-like focus is essential to success. The problem is that we are comfortable doing yesterday’s tasks and so we want to perpetuate them; the prospect of taking on something new is risky and uncomfortable.
Old stuff needs to go and make room for new stuff; it’s the only way we can stay fresh and relevant given the changing times we are in. And we don’t have enough resources do do both the old AND the new. Governments should heed this and stop throwing money at old programs — like the medical system — expecting that improvements will miraculously appear. There comes a time when you need to reinvent the old; blow it up and start with a clean sheet to create something new.
The right choices
People need to make the right choices. Parents constantly hound their kids about making healthy food choices, for example, and avoid stuff that is harmful to them. Ironically, some of these parents go to their job the next day and continue to hold on to the comfortable ways of the past rather than shedding the “unhealthy”.
New people; new skills
Organizations must constantly refresh themselves with people who possess the new skills and competencies necessary to survive and thrive in a new uncertain context. Releasing or retraining people who are busy doing CRAP is a good way to ensure a good flow of new employee skill sets.
Financially, no one can afford to take on new stuff while at the same time perpetuating projects — however comfortable — that might have been necessary yesterday but not today. There are no money pits with infinite resources available that enable this behaviour and it needs to stop.
The whole concept of cutting CRAP is a powerful lesson on leadership. I would estimate that over 80% of leadership strategy teaching goes to topics such as these: how to develop new customer solutions, how to decide which new market segment represents the best growth potential and which new partner should be acquired to deliver new sales capabilities. Not much time if any is devoted to the fact that stopping stuff is just as strategic as starting stuff, and leaders need to pay attention to this if their organizations are to be both effective and efficient.
Paying for new things
Cutting CRAP is an efficient way to fund new activities. Stop doing a project that doesn’t contribute to the way forward and cut the funding for it. Expenses are reduced and are available to reallocate to the incremental activities that must be undertaken.
As president of a data and internet organization, I was constantly asked for dollars that were not budgeted to fund new projects. My answer was always the same: “Stop doing something no longer needed given our new direction, achieve the savings and reallocate them to the new project. There are no added funds for you.” Over time, these requests dwindled away and CRAP elimination behaviour took their place.
CRAP is an environmental issue. Our business and personal landscapes are too cluttered; there is simply too much waste around us and we need to get better at recycling the old for the new. Let’s extend the conversation from landfills and pipelines to outdated systems in organizations and unproductive noise that clutters our personal lives.
Inertia is a killer and CRAP is the genesis. It’s the force that propels us along a certain course and repels interventions that might change it. CRAP is the embodiment of inertia that must be overcome in order to achieve a different purpose. Fighting inertia from the past is arguably THE most critical thing to overcome if we are to change. If CRAP is not dealt with, we will be stuck in a world with no future.
Refresh. Renew. Regenerate.
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