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Interesting is not the same as Useful

Have you ever attended a meeting just so that you are in the know? Asked for a status update that you had no intention of acting on? These are examples of waste at work. When we get distracted by interesting things, things that don’t get us closer to the goal, it is waste.

Sharing interesting information. Have you ever been in a meeting where someone shares some interesting information, and the rest of the meeting is wasted discussing it? Although it was interesting, it wasn’t useful in moving the work forward. Be mindful when you share information as to whether it’s useful. As a listener, be mindful of pulling the discussion back on track if the topic is not useful.

Status updates are interesting. When your peers or direct reports share status updates, is there an action you need to take? I often hear people say “I need to make sure it’s on track.” First of all, 99% of status reports are good news. But even when they are bad news, the speaker tells you about how they are handling the bad news. Ask yourself, “will I ever take an action based on this update?” If your answer is “so that I can know in case someone asks me” I’m calling BS on that. If your job is to answer questions in case someone asks, you are a middleman. You can redirect questions to the people who know the answer and go drink pina coladas on the beach.

Don’t hide information. To be clear, we are not suggesting that you hold information on a “need to know basis”, information should be readily available on the company intranet or collaboration software. However, I am saying to invite people to meetings on a “need to know basis”. Meetings do not need to be bloated to 30 people if only 3 people will be taking action on the discussion. The spectators can read about it on the intranet. And the “in case you need me” people will be contacted if we need them.

Waste can be creative. I’m not saying that we should never explore interesting ideas, that might germinate into future ideas. What I’m saying is that it is a distraction to simply entertain interesting ideas that don’t go anywhere.

Brain Twist: At work today, notice what information is useful and what is simply interesting. Ask your coworkers what action might be taken based on this information. If the answer is “nothing”, move on.

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