What's Driving You Crazy
The organization has grown too bloated with unnecessary events, products or personnel.
A subtraction purge happens when a powerful leader, team, or cross-disciplinary posse spearheads a focused and deep effort to fix a broken part of the organization.
*Caveat: purges — especially speedy, deep, top-down ones — come with many risks. The climate of fear that purges often create can stifle constructive complaints and debates, make people sick, and provoke skilled employees to leave. And when organizations use purges for costing-cutting and focus on short-term performance, innovation suffers as it is a messy and inefficient process.
Case studies featuring Purges
The Use of Purges at DropBox: The Armeetingeddon Story
Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston and his leadership team tried to fix some shit when they cancelled hundreds of time-sucking meetings in 2013. They realized that employees were wasting so much time in meetings that they kept missing crucial deadlines, especially shipping dates. So Dropbox IT folks removed nearly all standing meetings from employees’ calendars and made it impossible for them to add new meetings for two weeks. Employees were notified via an email that “Armeetingeddon has landed.” After explaining why their calendars were “a bit light,” the email ended by asking, “Ahhh doesn’t it feel fantastic?” Dropbox also developed guidelines to reduce the burdens imposed by meetings including, “schedule meetings if (and only if) other forms of communication won’t cut it,” “Invite only key stakeholders, not spectators,” and when people found themselves in a useless meeting, or realized they were adding nothing, they were encouraged to leave before it ended.In the months following Armeetingeddon, people scheduled fewer meetings, meetings were smaller, and people routinely declined invites to meetings that were a poor use of their time. But they soon slipped back into their old ways. Drew told us, by 2015 “things were worse than ever” and added “it is like mowing the lawn, you can’t just do it once.” Being a shitfixer is a way of life, not just something that is one and done.
The Apple Purges
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 (after being forced out in a power struggle in 1985), he implemented numerous purges–disbanding numerous groups and laying-off hundreds of employees. Jobs’ most striking purge began after he spent his first few weeks back at Apple learning about the vast, unprofitable, and confusing product line-up that he inherited. He realized, for example, that insiders couldn’t even explain the differences among Macintosh products such as the Performa 3400, 4400, 5400, and 6500. And there were dozens of other Apple products that were losing money too, including the Newton (a hand-held device), the Pippin (a gaming system), and a bunch of printers. Within a year, Jobs discontinued all of these products and the Apple product line consisted of just four new Macintoshes: a business desktop and laptop, and a consumer desktop and laptop.
How to use Purges
Using an auditing process, identify the “poison apples” in an organization. These can be people, processes, divisions, but whatever it may be if it is toxic and its negative effects are permeating into other areas of the company- it should be purged. This must be done with care and precision but the complete elimination of these “bad apples” will have outsized benefits on your organization.