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    Knowing When To Let Go

    By: Jeff Gau
    January 19, 2012

    We all know we have things we should probably let go of. These can be company traditions, events, or even functions of your business. They can compromise our time, resources and often performance. But knowing when to let go is not a science and personally, I have a tendency to hang on to things too long. When I look back, there were times we should have given up sooner – perhaps even years before we did.

    Time to Let Go
    I can name a series of traditions and functional areas of our business that we had to let go of because they were no longer appropriate for the growth and strategic direction of our company. Here are some examples of how we concluded it was time to move on:

    • It’s a recurring topic of conversation at meetings.
      Talk is not cheap. Whenever I hear employees complain or share frustrations on the same subject time and time again, it gets my attention. This was the case with Marco’s corporate headquarters, where we have been located for 25 years. Consistent comments indicated a lack of parking, warehouse space, and amenities that were impacting productivity. We had to evaluate and make a decision to let go of our long-standing, highly visible location on Division Street and are in the process of constructing a new corporate facility on the interstate. To say this was an easy decision would certainly be an understatement.

    • It doesn’t make sense logistically. 
      I have particularly found this with events. The long-standing traditions of our company Christmas party and customer appreciation golf outing became a challenge logistically as we grew our business. Our annual employee and guest holiday gathering dated back to 1973 and was part of our culture. Also, for as far back as I can remember, Marco hosted one of the largest customer golf events in Central Minnesota. Ultimately logistics came into play as it became more difficult to get employee and client participation from our expanding geography. The controversial decisions to let go of these traditions had to be made. We moved to an alternative format that is more region-focused and is successfully creating new traditions. 

    • Someone else can do it better. 
      As leaders, sometimes we convince ourselves that we are better at things than perhaps we actually are. Although we may think we have the competency, the truth is others could probably do it better and it may be more productive for us to spend our time on something else. A recent example of this was when we decided to outsource cabling services that at one time we felt necessary to provide ourselves. This outsourcing strategy proved to be a good solution for our customers and more efficient for Marco.

    • It’s not producing the desired results.
      This can be tough and is often not black or white. When do you admit defeat and start over? Our corporate sales training is a telling example. We dedicated a full-time training position to help improve our sales productivity and orientation process. After five years and a significant investment without an increase in sales productivity, I had to recommend that we let go and re-evaluate how we approach this concept. In fact, it’s still a key initiative in fiscal year 2012 and will be until we find a way to achieve the desired results.

    • It doesn’t fit anymore. 
      As companies evolve, often so should their strategies. What worked well historically may not be relevant today. For example, our focus as a business shifted away from a retail office products storefront to a direct sales technology-focused solutions provider. This important decision to let go of our retail strategy established our commitment to transition from office products to information technology.

    As I reflect back, I have few regrets about our decisions to let go of how we traditionally did things. Knowing when something has run its course is not easy, but ask yourself “What should you quit doing that no longer makes sense in your organization?” 

    Topics: Change
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