Friday, December 11, 2009

Achieving Great Work, not just Good Work

Productivity Magazine ( has an article about Michael Bungay Stanier, one of Canada's best productivity coaches, where he discusses the concept of bad work, good work, and great work.

Bad work is pointless work, work you need to avoid, no politeness needed. If you have read the cartoon strip Dilbert (tm), he's almost always doing "bad work". Organizations tend to assign bad work. Actual examples would be having you fill out detailed time logs and expense reports that nobody ever reads.

Good work is familar and useful work you do and do well. You have the training, you have the education, and you enjoy the good work. This is good, but it's just that, "good". You do the normal work that you do well.

Great work, on the other hand, is the really exceptional, outstanding work that you do, because 1) you're "in the flow", and 2) what you do is very meaningful to you. However, this great work is also new, challenging, with a risk for failure. New product developement, meeting with a new client, and so on can be "great work".

Mr. Stanier explained that in order to do great work, you have to choose to do LESS good work. This can be difficult, but there's a saying: "Good enough is the enemy of greatness". If you say something is good enough, it will never be "great". So in order to be great, you have to choose to say no to 'good enough'.

One of the best way to say no is to really examine your responsibilities, and decide what to say yes to.

This principle is not new. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet on the program "Buffet and Gates goes back to school" have to same thought. On the show, one student asked them about time management, and Gates was surprised to find that Buffet's appt book pages are virtually blank. Buffet said he says no very often, and added that he only says yes to the important stuff.

Or to put it another way, look at what you're doing, ask yourself WHY you're doing it, and then ask yourself... "Is this true?" or just "Really?"

Let's say you're surfing the Internet, chatting on bulletin boards. Ask yourself, WHY are you chatting when you could be doing more productive work? You may not like the answer, but since it's to yourself, you can be honest... I am on because 1) I need the validation it gives me, and 2) I need the social interaction. Then you ask yourself... Is that true? Which would make you think: perhaps I can get validation from the work I do instead... and thus, my social interaction will be with colleagues and those with similar interests. Well, there you go.

According to Mr. Stanier, a lot of people, once they have a goal, simply go and do things, even though often one must slow oneself down and really think about the choices.

He recommends adding the "five questions" to make sure you got all basis covered.

You will have to define the challenge and the goal first, of course. Once you thought of one solution. Then ask...

1) Okay, we have this solution... AND what else?

Please repeat this step until you are truly out of alternative solutions, even if the solutions are impossible or just plain stupid or ridiculous. It's brainstorming, but with a purpose.

2) What is the easiest thing to do?

And please don't say "nothing". The easiest SOLUTION to achieve the goal is the proper answer. Evaluate the solutions you have.

3) What is the solution that would have the most impact?

Or in other words, the most elegant, yet far-reaching solution?

4) What would YOU want to do? Not what you WILL do, but what you would WANT to do?

Once you've chosen your answer, your final question then is

5) Now with all these choices before you, what WILL you do?

If you have problem deciding, perhaps it's time to ask yourself two questions:

a) What would extraordinary look like? In other words, imagine what would happen if what you intend to do has come true. What would success feel like? (and implicitly, is that worth striving for, vs. NOT achieving that goal?)

b) What would you NOT do to achieve that goal? Or something that clearly cannot happen given what you got? Once you've determined THAT, you can determine what is LEFT that you WILL do to achieve the goal. This is sort of "reverse brainstorming".

All this actually fits well with a lot of the Rich Dad teachings, as well as teachings by Dr. Wayne Dyer in Excuses Begone.

Entrepreneurs, i.e. those in B quadrant, needs to avoid bad work, do good work, and do great work. Good work is the stuff that keeps the business running, but great work is the stuff that will expand the business, such as selling to new clients, developing new products, and so on. And if you do less "good" work by hiring help, you are freed to do more great work.

When it comes to problem solving, Entrepreneurs need to consider all angles, even the unconventional ones. Then, the solution that is the best fit with the mission of the company is the one that will be chosen, as that fits with your mission, the one YOU created and defined.

And finaly, if you have a goal, and you hesitate to move forward, what excuse DO you have? Often, one is simply fear of the unknown. In that case, follow the last two steps, which are from Dr. Dyer's program as well... And a lot like Rich Dad's advice... Why would any one choose NOT to have financial freedom? Can you imagine what your life would be like if you have financial freedom? Not necessarily rich, just that you no longer have to work for a living? And why would you NOT want that? Isn't that worth whatever effort you need to perform to "make it"?

And the 2nd part of the advice is a lot like... What price are you willing to pay for financial freedom? Commit a crime, cheat, or smuggle drugs is out, as the price for that is just too high. Marrying someone for money is likewise. Being cheap... Nah. That's no fun, and loses the spirit of being financially free. That leaves... a lot of prices you *are* willing to pay.

So, when it comes to achieving a goal you need to

* define the goal properly
* decide if you really want the goal or not (including why)
* determine methods of achieving the goal
* choose a method, based on "what price you are willing to pay"
* learn the method and the tactics/mechanics/steps
* then go out and do it.

This applies in all stages of life, even entrepreneurship.

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