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Posted: December 13, 2013

Clearing out the crud

One man's two-minute fix

Todd Ordal

Out my second floor bathroom window the other day, I saw that a long section of my gutter was full of water. I’m a fan of leaving minor housing issues alone, hoping that (a) they’ll improve on their own (they don’t), (b) my wife will see them and call someone (she doesn’t) or, if they’re bad enough, (c) waiting for death to take me so I don’t have to paint, repair, replace or clean them (I guess I should quit exercising).

Anyway, my gutter didn’t drain itself, my wife didn’t see it (or perhaps she secretly has the same strategy I do!) and I didn’t pass away peacefully in the night. So I figured I should do something.

I climbed the ladder, found a slimy ball of accumulated crud in the drain, pulled it out and voilà! Gallons of water made their way downstream. All this backup from baseball-size crud. It took two minutes to solve the problem.

Organizations get crud in their systems as well. It’s amazing how much backup you can get from one bad system, employee or customer. If leaders treat their organizations the way I treat my household problems, they can get into a world of hurt.

The ball of crud in my gutter wouldn’t destroy much value in my home, but if I left enough of those kinds of issues, it would. One bad apple on your team may not destroy your company, but a couple of them could. A few bad systems or processes might as well.

As I write this, the Obama administration is trying to fix the “front door” to the Affordable Care Act. Time will tell whether this is a workable program, but they initially took the same strategy I used on my gutter, and look what happened.

Which balls of accumulated crud can you eliminate to get things flowing again?

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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