How To Halt The Creation Of Rework & Waste

If what we do really matters, it’s meaningful. The exact antithesis of this, then, is work that is literally wasted, has no point, or is done twice.

It's hard to imagine anything that matters less and it isn't the workers who typically cause this violation of meaning - it's their managers.

Why? No one sets out to create rework and waste, and yet it happens.

One culprit is when we give unclear or imprecise direction upfront. Another is when we fail to get our chain of management aligned to something, which then triggers substantive work later. Lack of respect for people's time causes us to be late or engage in behaviors that effectively waste time.

A desire to exhaustively cover every angle leads to work that ultimately is done without a useful purpose. Indecision and insecurity plays a part as well, as does overreacting to new developments. The bottom line is that this behavior kills the sense of completion that human beings are deeply drawn to.

Repeating or reworking a task is inherently bereft of fulfillment because the human mind can't resist drawing the conclusion that the first go-around, or any go-around, didn't matter. Completed work that is a complete waste causes frustration and drains meaning. And I'm not referring to work that was ultimately discarded but served as a valuable learning experience and stepping stone along the way. I'm talking about lazy behavior causing unnecessary rework and waste--something that simply has no place in a meaning-making organization.

Asserting control over these specific corrosive behaviors requires awareness of three power questions we can ask ourselves:

  1. Did I give a clear brief for the work? - Businesses all the way from advertising agencies to military organizations require a clear brief for the mission before they get started. What is the objective of the work? What are the expectations? Who is doing what? Are all the stakeholders of the work's outcome aligned to the work to be done? An undisciplined approach to the assignment of work will lead to great inefficiency and wasted effort and energy.
  2. Is the juice worth the squeeze? - This question helps us to get serious about simplification. Asking for work in an effort to cover every angle is not exhaustive thinking - it's exhaustively lazy thinking. And it hints at underlying insecurities, which cannot be the driving force behind requests for work. Each new piece of work requested should be carefully viewed through the filter of whether it's truly worth doing. The bottom line here is that you must realize you could be asking someone to do something that is literally meaningless. That is the exact opposite of bringing more meaning to the workplace. Of course, you have to consider new information along the way that could trigger new or different work. However, this is about choosing not to do the easy thing by doing everything, but instead being disciplined enough to choose only the worthy things to work on. Such a mindset helps ensure no effort is wasted.
  3. Am I acting with an abundant scarcity mentality? - People have limited time, resources, and energy. Respect for those scarcities should be abundant. Wasteful behavior here causes missed opportunity for a sense of completion realized elsewhere.