Bob Sutton is Professor of Management Science at the Stanford University School of Engineering. Haggie Rao is the Athol McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Below, co-authors Bob and Huggie share 5 key insights from their new book, The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Hard, Listen to the audio version read by Bob in the Next Big Idea app.
1. You are the trustee of people’s time.
Leaders and teams who are especially good at making the right things easy and the wrong things hard tend to adopt a similar mindset or mission. They have a point of view that we call mentality of trustees, They see themselves as trustees of others’ time. When we were preparing a class for 60 executives at Stanford, our colleague Jeremy Utley stood up in the middle of the meeting and shouted, “I don’t like wasting other people’s time!” This embodies the mindset of trustees – a leader who feels obligated to assure that their employees, customers or students use every minute of their time well.
Becoming a trustee is never a one-time situation. In 2015, I wrote an article about how Dropbox had an amazing intervention in 2013 called Armitingeddon, where leaders removed standing meetings from everyone’s calendars, and employees couldn’t add new meetings for almost a week. During this time he was asked to think about which meetings were necessary. Dropbox also created all these new rules and displayed them on the walls, like, for example, you should keep meetings as short as possible, and you should also leave a meeting if it wasn’t effective or you weren’t adding value.
He reduced the number of unnecessary meetings for some time, but when we wrote for ink Two years later, their CEO Drew Houston told us, “It’s worse than before. It’s like mowing the lawn; You have to do it over and over again with discipline where you will never do anything right. Adopting the trustees’ mindset is like mowing the lawn. It is a way of life, a discipline.
2. Adopt a mindset of reduction.
When we look at people and organizations that are adept at fighting bad friction, they adopt what we call mindset of reduction, This is not something that comes naturally to humans. A series of 20 studies conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia shows that humans are wired to solve problems by adding complexity rather than subtracting it. It’s our natural tendency to add complexity, whether we’re planning a vacation, fixing up Lego models, or deciding on university. The organizations we studied made this problem worse by rewarding people who created fiefdoms, launching initiatives, and adding software – and did not reward people who reduced complexity.
This is bad news. The good news is that in the organizations we studied, there are many things people do using a reduction mindset.
“It’s our natural tendency to add complexity, whether we’re planning a vacation, fixing a Lego model, or deciding university.”
A great example occurred at Hawaii Pacific Medical, Hawaii’s largest health care system. A woman named Dr. Melinda Ashton was concerned that doctors, nurses, etc. were spending excessive time on electronic patient record systems instead of focusing directly on patients. So, they started the ‘Get Rid of Stupid Things’ campaign. She solicited suggestions from people throughout the system about parts of the electronic records process that could be reduced or simplified. He described it as containing “parts that were poorly designed, unnecessary, or just plain stupid”.
People in the system suggested 188 reduction targets, and his team made 87 improvements. Here’s one, just to give you an example: They eliminated one mouse click that was made while nurses and nurse assistants were making rounds for each patient. By eliminating just that one little click, they saved 24 seconds per click, saving approximately 1,700 nursing hours per month across their four hospitals. Adopt a mindset of reduction.
3. Avoid jargon monoxide.
Our third lesson is to pay attention to your language; Avoid using what Huggie and I call jargon monoxide, All kinds of destructive friction arise when people regularly use overly complex or incomprehensible language.
just an example jargon mishmash syndrome, This happens when a particular type of language or phrase means so many different things to so many different people that it becomes meaningless. We are taking lessons from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. He talks about how noise is a big problem when it comes to figuring out the right action because the recommendations, data or definitions that people use are so diverse and inconsistent that people can’t figure out what What to do, who to trust, or what to do. The idea is “really mean.” Kahneman defines noise as situations where there is a “random scattering of ideas” rather than a clear pattern.
An example that illustrates noise is a speech given by an Australian agile consultant. This fellow Craig Smith gave a 40-minute speech describing 40 different types of Agile – everything from Holacracy, Scrum Plop, Deming, Beyond Budgeting, and Lean Startup. There were many methods that, frankly, I had never heard of. If the word Agile has 40 different meanings under the Agile tent, then Agile means at least 40 different things to different people. This fits Kahneman’s definition of “random scattering of ideas”, and thus, makes no sense.
When you get into a situation where you have jargon mishmash syndrome, the best solution is to stop using the jargon in question. Clear up your language, and people will be less confused, communicate better, and know what to do!
4. Not all friction is bad.
There are situations where friction is good. friction fixer Eliminate bad friction and identify things that should be hard, slow, or impossible. To give you an example, let’s look at research on creativity. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile explains that when you put creativity under the gun and put too much pressure on people, all kinds of bad things happen. Creativity is a fundamentally inefficient process. It involves a lot of deadlock, failure, and creative struggle – even when you’re doing it right.
“Creativity is a fundamentally inefficient process.”
The text here is Jerry Seinfeld. Famous comedian and TV show co-creator seinfeld says, “When it comes to comedy, the hard way is the right way; There’s no natural way to make it efficient.” When he prepares a show, he’ll try hundreds of jokes, and maybe 1 or 2 percent will survive. When it comes to many things in life, they Needed Be slow, difficult and complex. Trying to create a conflict-free organization is a fool’s errand.
5. Embrace the mess.
The best leaders are of two minds. Their first approach focuses on becoming good organizational designers: eliminating bad processes, tying together knowledge and action from different corners of the company, making it impossible to do unethical or stupid things, and making many other changes to the way the organization operates. Therefore, they are constantly thinking of ways to clean up the mess by improving the design of the organization.
But they are also of other minds who know that there will be processes, laws and rules that are stupid, dangerous and will impede progress, that leaders and teams cannot avoid or repair – at least for now. . Like the rest of life, there will always be tough times, times when people at work are confused, upset, and can’t figure out how to fix things. Being a friction fixer means figuring out how to deal with and navigate messy situations.
Here’s what great leaders do in such situations. Clara Shih is the CEO of AI at Salesforce, a board member of Starbucks for 29 years, and the president and founding CEO of her own company, Hearsay Systems. Clara says that when she launches something new, she urges her team to embrace the messiness. She uses an approach called separation of concerns Which is from Computer Science. They have a team that focuses on implementing things that are working well, and they have another team whose job it is to clean up the inevitable messes that arise.
As a friction fixer and trustee of others’ time, you often have to do two things at the same time: motivate people to move forward on things going right and as planned, and deal with the inevitable surprises, setbacks, confusions. And handling other messes that require cleanup.
To hear the audio version read by co-author Bob Sutton, download the Next Big Idea app today: