I consider abandonment as one of the most important gifts bestowed on us by Peter Drucker. It is unusual that such a profound concept should have been left unnourished by so many writers who followed in his footsteps. Amongst the overgrown and chaotic jumble within an organisation Drucker saw a clear pathway to freedom, innovation and productivity through the adoption of regular and systematic abandonment. Drucker knew more than anyone, that human beings never like to admit a mistake or own up to failure. To avoid facing the truth we hope circumstances will somehow conspire to make a ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.
Drucker said: “The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon. In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, and the unproductive.”
He also said: “Don’t tell me what you’re doing, tell me what you’ve stopped doing.”
He saw abandonment as fundamental as breathing, a natural passing of old to new. Examples of abandonment he talked about included
- Cash cows of the past (which were no longer generating the income to justify their continued existence)
- Rectifying recruitment mistakes (no matter how good your recruitment process is, you will make mistakes and these staff need to be told they need to move on)
- Unsuccessful projects
- Systems that are not delivering
- Processes that we have maintained only because we did it last month, last quarter, last year.
Action: Establish an abandonment day, every month, yes every month and get all. Measuring the extent of innovation and abandonment will help focus management’s attention on these two important areas.
This is an extract from a book called ‘Don’t say I didn’t tell you’.
The past has great lessons to offer. Whilst technology and the evolving pace of change may lead millennials to thinking that what is ahead of them is unique. In fact, it has all happened before. I am a father in my 60s who has gathered many lessons from the past, and I set them out here for my daughters in the vain hope that they will be a guiding light long after I am physically gone. Some of the suggestions may seem ridiculous at first, but I ask you to chew the crud and make an informed decision later. For a list of topics covered see here.