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Simple Concepts: Killing Hobbies

3rd of 3 in Simple Concepts Series

Don’t worry. I am not about to ask you to stop golfing, painting, or stamp collecting.

Killing hobbies is not about stopping the hobbies outside of work that you enjoy and that help you with your health and wellness. It’s about the tasks you complete at work that may no longer be completely necessary, but you keep doing them anyway. These tasks have become hobbies at work. Things that you do that contribute little or no value to the organization or to anyone else. Is it because you enjoy these tasks that you keep doing them? Herein lies the rub.

When I was younger in my career, I was asked to put together a report for the executives at my company. There were no automated reports that met this need, so I had to manually pull from several data sources; make it visually appealing; provide analysis commentary; and check for errors. This report would take me hours and it had to be sent at a specific time each month. The request had been weekly, but we negotiated the cadence with the senior executive that wanted all the executives to have this information regularly. The report went to a who’s who of VPs and above at the time, and due to the recipient list and the sensitive nature of the data, my anxiety was always high when I pressed send. I received some questions and requests for follow up information in the first two months, but then I never heard again from anyone on the recipient list for the next year. Over time, I began to wonder if this report was as critical as it was when the request was originally made so my boss and I decided to do an experiment. I stopped sending the report to see what would happen. I realize you’re on the edge of your seat right now, so I’ll cut right to the chase.

Nothing Happened! Not a peep from anyone who had previously claimed that they needed this critical information. After 2 months of no noise, we discontinued the report permanently.

Over the years, I had so many similar examples that when I moved into leadership roles, I was more aware of this kind of dynamic. I didn’t have a name for it until a few years ago when “killing hobbies” was listed as one of the integration principles for a group of businesses that was coming together to form one larger entity. The idea was that each of these different businesses did things a certain way, and over time many of these things would have to either change or be eliminated to establish efficient processes for the combines business. Every business was encouraged to “kill” their “hobbies.” Genius! I finally had a mantra to articulate this dynamic with teams that I led.

Although I have no scientific proof, I argue that some material percentage of work done by every person in a company falls into this defined category of being a hobby. My guess is most people question the value themselves but keep doing it because they believe it’s expected and don’t want to get impacted during a performance review. The only way to address this is to actively and aggressively seek out and kill those hobbies on a regular basis. This requires the commitment of leadership, but any individual has the ability to question the value of their work. What’s the worst thing that can happen? That you realize it was valuable after all? Sounds like a win-win to me.

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