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Why saying no can be good for business

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Sure. But is that really the whole story? Do wheels squeak only when they need grease? Or can a loose screw or a worn tire also create a squeak? Maybe what you hear isn’t a squeak at all, but the hiss of a tire losing air. And what about wheels that aren’t squeaking? Do you just ignore them?

My point is that just greasing the squeaky wheel isn’t necessarily the best solution to a given problem: it’s a fallacy. And yet in information technology, particularly project and program management, organizations continue to dole out time, money and resources to any and every issue that grabs their attention. It needs to stop.

And it can, with one word: no.

It’s easy to say yes to projects, to just add them to the ever-growing list of things that need to get done immediately. And it’s easy to believe that somehow, even though you know you don’t have the staff, you’ll get it all done by just working harder!

You won’t. There is always a cost to tackling too many things at once and wasting effort on low-reward projects. In the long run, it is far easier to say no. No to the projects that cost too much, no to the cool upgrade that won’t actually increase sales, no to compromising your future business for short-term gain.

In other words, saying no means setting priorities. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights how top-performing individuals aren’t necessarily the most talented but are instead masters of being selective. They get ahead because they choose the simplest solutions. Businesses must do the same.

Instead of green-lighting every project or initiative with potential for profit, management teams need to advocate for the simplest solutions – with the most lasting benefits. Just imagine what a more selective approach could do for your business.

Imagine you had a clear, prioritized list of tangible and achievable actions for the next year. And what if that list was mapped directly to each business unit’s objectives? What if you said no to the squeaky-wheel projects and instead focused on adding real value to your business? What if you knew today exactly how much you could deliver tomorrow, by finally understanding your organization’s capacity for change.

At cShell Consulting, we have a tried-and-tested framework for discovering exactly that. We specialize in helping organizations define clear, actionable priorities supported by a data-driven plan for achieving what you can with what you have. Let us help you discover the wealth of opportunity in saying no.

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