Try less before more

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Jenni Jepsen

You know the drill. We get a lot of requirements from stakeholders, ideas from people all around us and suddenly our backlog is so large there is no way we can keep the overview let alone get everything done. Why do we always seem to add things to our products and plans?

Turns out we are biologically wired to add things.

When we can move backlog items into done or check items off our TO DO lists, we feel accomplished. Getting things done signals reward in our brains. And the more that we can get done, the more competent we feel.

Doesn’t even make sense to do all these things?

Doesn’t even make sense to do everything?

In SUBTRACT, a great book by Leidy Klotz, the main message is “try less before more.” But as he writes, the trouble with subtracting is that it we don’t feel as competent or look as competent if we don’t get everything done.

Create a safe space to say “no”

As leaders, we need to create the environment where it is safe to remove items from products and from plans, and to say “no” or “not now” to new items when it makes sense. Not only does it make doing the work more sustainable, experience and research show that we often get more creative solutions when we remove things.

How to support people in achieving less before more:

  • Ask, “Do we need to do this now?”
  • Ask, “How long has this been in the backlog? Why haven’t we done this already? And what are the consequences of removing the work item?”
  • Encourage prioritization of backlog items and working at a sustainable pace

Watch Jenni’s Leadership Nudge here.

For more, read Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, by Leidy Klotz

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