Last week, I went for a stroll through Ikea. I absolutely love Ikea, something about the beautifully organized state of the showrooms makes me feel so relaxed, probably because my house is a disaster. But, I do digress.
As I was walking through those gorgeously laid out spaces, my mind started to unwind and I realized two things that can make a difference in anyone’s day:
1. Go back to the basics – identify the problem.
On this particular day when I went to Ikea, my mind was shot. I couldn’t think, I was tired, overwhelmed, and did not know where to start. My work was overwhelming, my house was a disorganized mess, and the only thing I was successful in was procrastinating!
While I was browsing, my brain started to declutter and I realized that in order for me to work towards a solution, I needed a problem. If my house is disorganized, what in particular is not working and why? It’s not enough for me to say that everything is a mess. I needed to focus my attention on one area – for example, the kids’ toys. Why are they a mess (besides obvious reasons!) What in particular do I need to fix (such as not stepping on those darn tiny legos – ouch!) What type of solution will help? (Finding a certain type of container? Throwing away the toys?? Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme.)
All this is true in any aspect of your life, including work. There are a myriad of solutions out there – DIY videos, inspirational Instagram posts and many, many online resources and ads that promise to “fix” your broken life. But do we stop often enough to ask, is it really broken? If it is, where specifically do we need to fix it?
In organizations, one thing is constant – we need to get better. Employees need to perform better, leaders need to lead better, technology needs to be better, finances need to be better. This is why change is so rampant, and we see more change fatigue now than before. While this is all true and likely necessary to stay competitive, leaders can play a big role in their teams by taking a step back and really asking – what is the problem? Slowing down and solutioning the actual problem will allow you and your team to focus resources more efficiently and effectively, and will motivate your team to come up with viable solutions to the actual problem.
2. If you organized your kitchen and it’s not working, reorganize again!
As a child, I remember my mom would organize and reorganize our kitchen over and over. Just when we thought we knew where the spoons were, wait….where did they go? This got even more interesting when I would go into my bedroom and the entire space had been reorganized! I would often wake up in the middle of the night and wonder where I was because my bed would be in a different spot every few days! (Ok I’m exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like. Love you mom!)
Little did I know that this woman is a genius. Eventually, the re-orgs slowed down and in some rooms of the house, they even stopped! Because she found the magic formula. She found the right organization of the room that clicked.
Owning a home for me has been interesting. My tendency is to put things where I think they should go. Then if I feel I don’t like how they’re organized, I go and try to find a solution – from Ikea of course! However, as I walked through Ikea that day, I realized, everything I need to make my home successfully organized is in my home. The problem is, I have put them in the wrong spots or am using them in a way that is not maximizing their benefit.
Do you see where I’m going? It can be an easy go-to solution for an organization to say, let’s find new technology, system, or organizational structure (including new people) to fix our current disorganization. But somewhere within the current organizational walls, there are likely systems, structures, and people being used in a way that is not maximizing their capabilities. Leaders, while the top level of the organization continues to seek out new opportunities to make the organization wholly more effective, you must take the time to look at your team to see how you can reorganize it to make it more effective. Do you have people assigned to projects or work who are best suited for the job? Are their ways you can review and revise current workflows or processes to make things function differently?
It is important as a leader that you take the time to reflect on where you’re at and plan strategically for the future. Running towards the next best thing or focusing constantly on putting out fires won’t allow you the space to make things better. Just as Ikea gave me much needed mental space and motivation, you also need mental space to be strategic and not reactionary.
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