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 Management Minute

Finding a “Warm Space” to Think, Thrive and Let Things Go

I have noticed lately with this persistent winter weather that I find myself “hunkering down.” As I encounter the chill, my eyes are to the ground, my hands form fists to keep my fingers warm, and I move as quickly as possible to get to a warm space. I am nearly oblivious to anything even a few feet away.

There are certainly times at work where we need to focus in to get the job done – keep our heads down to keep all the balls in the air, meet the deadline, do the final push on a big project. That kind of focus does require at least some level of “blinders” to keep us from being distracted. And there can be satisfaction at the end – getting to the “warm space” of a more manageable schedule with time to check in with colleagues, think strategically, and consider the meaning of our work and how we can make substantive change on the things that matter.

As managers, we must have this space. We can’t be running all the time – we must be able to slow down and find a place to create, envision and ponder.

In the last Member Briefs, I talked about various strategies to get free of the abominable “to do” list and to find room in our work for these essential elements. One AMCHP member responded that a concept she had found helpful was management guru Peter Drucker’s theory of “purposeful abandonment.” Drucker posed that, in the life of any organization, things get continually added, but nothing ever gets taken off the list. Every organization has a limited amount of time, energy and resources. Never letting anything go works for a while, but it can’t be sustained. At some point we have too much to do – we suffer, and so do our efforts.

This is where “purposeful abandonment” comes in. Drucker suggests that the question be posed: “What are we doing that we can stop doing without compromising our mission?” People need to be encouraged to answer honestly and in a brainstorming spirit, without judgment. Typically many good ideas emerge and some of them may actually be quite workable. Even changes in small things can help, because they too take time, energy and resources. You can find one contemporary writer’s thoughts about how to start the conversation here.

So, get to that warm place and practice a little “purposeful abandonment.” Spring could be literally and figuratively around the corner.