Paradigm Shifter #11: Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be

Paradigm Shift

We Americans are driven by a Puritan work ethic – regardless of our personal culture, ethnicity, or religious beliefs (or nonbeliefs).  While we are encouraged to “work smart,” there remains some small voice saying, “If it’s too easy, then it must not be right.”

Each one of us has a unique range of talents and skills that makes certain tasks “easier” than others.  Instead of embracing this, we tend to downplay what comes naturally to us and focus on “improving” that which is hard for us.

If it’s too easy, then we aren’t working hard enough.

In my own life, I watched my mother – a working woman who was ahead of her time – clean things that didn’t need to be cleaned.  Every week, she wiped down all sides of every piece of furniture and even the spines of books with Lysol.  As a result, cleaning was a dawn to dusk affair that I could never understand because the house was neither dusty nor dirty.  FYI:  I never saw “dust” until I got my own apartment!  (But that’s another story.)

While my mother’s cleanliness was highly commendable, was it really necessary to engage in these unnecessary tasks each week?

How to Make Things Easier But More Effective:  In today’s hypercompetitive, time-starved work environment, it’s important to focus on what’s important and necessary for success.  Streamlining processes leads to not only greater efficiency, but greater effectiveness because employees’ energies are focused on those activities that will provide the greatest return to the company.  It also can help to avoid burnout.  Consider making these changes:

  • Determine key performance indicators (KPIs):  Change reports (or activities) that are no longer necessary, outdated, or focus on items that are only superficially related to key performance indicators
  • Plan for tasks and people:  Poor planning negates the inherent synergies between the different moving parts and people in the workflow
  • Focusing on “results achieved” rather than “time spent”
  • Watch out for “busy work:  Fear can lead to paralysis by analysis by focusing on irrelevant details or waiting until the time is “perfect”

Case Study:  When I started working during the early introduction of the PC to the workplace, Lotus 1-2-3 (remember this predecessor to Excel?!) assigned error messages if a calculation resulted in zero.  One President/CEO actually hired temporary workers to go in and manually change the “Err” to “0” in every cell on the spreadsheet.  Considering the payroll costs to make these cosmetic changes, wouldn’t it have been better to (1) reconsider what should be included in the report or (2) simply add a legend indicating that “Err” represented a zero?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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