Just Say No to the Herk and Jerk.

I have to wonder if Seth Godin and Greg McKeown conspired to publish their respective articles on the same day. Both end up making the same point from slightly different directions and taken together, they really are magic.

Greg:

Go through the process of answering the essential strategy question: "What will we say no to?" It is that question that will reveal the real tensions in your team. It is that question that will uncover the core trade-offs in your organization. It is that question that can deliver the rare and precious clarity necessary to achieve game-changing breakthroughs in your business.

and Seth:

The short-term herk and jerk that is delivered by an organization that responds to those that amplify problems into catastrophes inevitably leads to poor performance in the long run.

The point is that saying "no" is more important than saying yes. It's more important to your strategy and to your success in the long (and probably short) term. It's also a lot harder. It's easy to say yes to lots of little projects and to pull them off (barely). It's much more difficult to say no to those distractions and maintain focus on what will really benefit the organization or business. 

Even a really busy team can take on "one more thing." They're smart, hardworking people and they will find a way to get it done. Usually, those small things will be done just to the point of completion and not one micron further. You can't blame them, once they reach the threshold of "done enough," it's on to the next thing. Over a longer time scale, these small barely finished things add up to mediocre performance. When viewed from the ground, they look pretty impressive, but at a higher level it becomes easy to see the cracks in between. 

By removing these distractions and freeing the team to work on a small number of deep projects, each person gets to contribute to their full potential and the project benefits from this high level of polish. Knock down a few of these bigger puzzles pieces in a row and things start to fit together much more tightly. The "herk and jerk" goes away and makes everyone more focused and productive. And satisfied.