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Perspective

Why Saying ‘Yes’ to Everything Might Be Holding You Back

Early in my career as a manufacturing engineer, I did whatever it took to get the job done. If I saw a problem, I jumped in to fix it. I didn’t wait to be asked or worry that it wasn’t my responsibility. Soon, the shop floor employees began coming to me with their problems and suggested improvements. I loved the attention, and I loved feeling like I was having an impact as a new grad at my first real job.

But to keep up, I started coming in earlier and earlier and staying later and later. I started working weekends because it was a little quieter and I could get stuff done. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my “say yes to everything” mentality was actually hurting the company because I wasn’t focused on the most important tasks.

How Heroics Can Be Harmful

When we were doing research for our white paper, Prioritization’s Toughest Challenge: Human Nature, we uncovered many biases that hinder effective prioritization. Among other things, the paper discusses how we executives don’t like to say no. We say yes to every good idea, then let functional teams sort out the details. This works in the short-term or so it seems. But it takes heroic efforts and teams get burned out. When those heroics are rewarded, it only makes the situation worse.

  • Heroics create a culture of burnout, which leads to exhaustion, sick days, and turnover. And ultimately reduces productivity.
  • Reliance on heroics shows poor decision making, prioritization, planning, processes, and resource management.
  • Working under pressure leads to taking short-cuts and mistakes.

Reward Effective Planning Instead

Foresight, good planning, and ongoing risk mitigation are invisible work. And it’s hard to reward preventing problems that may or may not have otherwise happened. But what if we recognized the people and groups who do exactly what they say they’re going to do? Those who make well-researched, informed decisions, plan their work to meet the deadline without cutting corners, and don’t regularly rely upon all-nighters?

Of course, in the real world, things happen and you have to adapt your plan. An occasional all-hands-on-deck burst of activity is required and sometimes even fun. But if it’s routine or part of the culture, it’s going to hurt more than help in the long run.

Our company has a robust strategic planning process to identify our most important and urgent imperatives. We too have fallen victim to the human nature biases that had us say yes to more than we can handle. This year, I’m going to be a vocal advocate for prioritizing our efforts to make sure we don’t overextend our resources. This doesn’t mean saying no to a good idea, but rather saying “not now.”

August 29, 2023

Author

  • Scott Grzesiak
    Executive Vice President of Strategic Growth
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    Scott Grzesiak, Executive Vice President of Strategic Growth, leads all aspects of IPM’s marketing and business development. He is responsible for analyzing markets and their application of strategy execution to enable IPM to build core competencies and new services.

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Author

  • Scott Grzesiak
    Executive Vice President of Strategic Growth
    Integrated Project Management Company, Inc.
    LinkedIn Profile

    Scott Grzesiak, Executive Vice President of Strategic Growth, leads all aspects of IPM’s marketing and business development. He is responsible for analyzing markets and their application of strategy execution to enable IPM to build core competencies and new services.

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