Eradicating Quackgrass Work

Quackgrass is a challenge to anyone with an interest in having a great looking lawn.  The pesky plant spreads via tough, pointed underground stems.  Any tiny piece of the weed left behind will grow into a new plant.  There is a combination of weather factors that contribute to its resilience and expansion; some years it is really pervasive; some years it is not.  It takes time and a special remedy to eradicate.

It reminds us of the changing definition of work.  During good times of growth, organizations focus on expansion, achievement and improvement.  Results matter and contribution is measured by what is accomplished, not by what is attempted.  However, during bad times of recession (the root word being recess–what we called a break in school!), organizations focus more on survival, reduction and caution.  It is a perfect time for the emergence of the work version of quackgrass.

Quackgrass work is grounded in a desire to stay underground or under the head count cutting sickle.  Looking busy becomes more important than producing; form takes precedence over substance.  We hold meetings; write reports, conduct studies, talk-talk-talk all the while fooling others that it is real work. More energy is spent on PowerPoint slides than on making the cash register ring.  Intention, big schemes and planning are elevated to an art form.   Accomplishments, tangible outcomes and results are downplayed and avoided since they represent the risk of failure and a potential trip to the exit door.  It is all as bogus as quackgrass is, well, a quack!  It is not real grass!  And, it is just as hard to exterminate.

Eradicating quackgrass work takes leaders willing to require results, not “getting- ready-to” activity.  They ask questions like:  “How will this directly impact our bottom line, growth, or performance?” or “What are you producing that our customers will value?”  Weasel words like “plan,” “expect,” “meet,” “review,” and “study” are given a short leash and careful scrutiny as they can become pseudonyms for work rather than enablers of consequences.  It requires disciplined determination to retrain employees to “think results.”

Don’t fertilize quackgrass work.  Acknowledge you have a crop of it and go to work digging it up and hauling it off!





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About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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