Have you ever been encouraged to stop what you’re doing at work? No? Well then, here’s one. I encourage you to stop doing what you do as soon as you have any doubts about the value of the task at hand. Now, let me quickly add a disclaimer: My call for laying down your work should not be used as an excuse for not doing your job. Quite the opposite in fact. I would even argue that you’re not doing your job if you do not evaluate what you do and how you do it regularly.
A heads up for those of you who actually do stop what you’re doing upon realizing there’s something wrong: Laying down the work requires a commitment in which you have to work hard to solve the present problem. In fact, it calls for a session of pure improvement work. And for the best result: do it together with your team with encouragement from your leader.
In practical terms, what could this mean? The point is not to be overly critical to every process you participate in or task you perform, but to apply your experience, skills and common sense to it. A warning sign could typically be if you experience a process to be inefficient and tedious, a task to be of no value or a form to be inadequate or even with no purpose. The goal of course, is to call out ineffective processes and/or unnecessary tasks in order to improve flow.
In a busy workday, I know that colleagues find it hard to question procedures and the value of given tasks. The consequences of not doing the job on time could be hard to carry. The thing to bear in mind though, is that it could potentially be much worse (and more expensive) not to seize an opportunity to improve a faulty process or task. It is of course also important not to exaggerate. We have to improve our work gradually. We cannot afford to try to do it all at once, in which case we would not be able to get any work done at all. On the other hand, it is almost only when we stop the work we’re doing that we are able to take the time to review the process or the task with a goal to improve it.
In my opinion, we are in dire need to understand that continuous improvement is part of the job, not something that should be added on top of a full position. It is also my conviction that this is a vital key to success in our improvement initiative at UiT the Arctic University of Norway.
Now go and stop what you’re doing!
As complimentary reading, I would recommend “Aktivitetsfellen” (In Norwegian) by Øyvind Kvalnes (Associate professor, Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, Norwegian Business School) https://www.bi.no/forskning/business-review/articles/2017/03/aktivitetsfellen/
-Svein Are Tjeldnes