“To-do lists” have always been a powerful time management tool. Most everyone uses them in one form or another in hopes of increasing productivity. However, another strategy, much less well-known but just as powerful, suggests the opposite approach of the renowned to-do list.
It’s nothing more than a “don’t-do list” or a “stop-doing list.” This concept certainly isn’t new, and I doubt that it would qualify as “out-of-the-box thinking.” Management guru Peter Drucker mentioned it in many of his 39 best sellers over the years, and more recently, author Jim Collins (Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last) shares his support of the simple concept.
A few months ago I described this powerful tool in Start a “Stop-Doing” List. I explained that a “stop-doing” list is nothing more than a simple inventory of bad habits or negative actions currently practiced by an individual, team or organization that would provide better results if they were discontinued.
While this strategy may not represent “out-of-the-box thinking,” the method of application certainly can. I recently saw a perfect example of this strategy while flying to Philadelphia to deliver a keynote presentation. Due to the aftermath of several tropical storms in the Gulf, my plane was rerouted through four separate airports before reaching Philly in an effort to circumvent bad weather heading east from the devastation in Texas.
In printing my boarding passes, I immediately noticed that only one boarding pass emerged from the ticket kiosk machine. Fearing an even longer delay, I approached the ticket agent and explained my dilemma. She quickly suggested that I review the pass in my hand as she explained I only needed one pass. The airline now issues a single boarding pass regardless of how many connections you may be scheduled to make before reaching your final destination. In an effort to save paper and ink, they have eliminated separate boarding passes for every city on your route. This procedure also reduces your chances of losing one of those passes in route.
Later, on the plane, I couldn’t help thinking about this small gesture on the part of the airlines and the enormous impact it was going to have on the industry. I couldn’t help but wonder why this idea had not been carried out years earlier. It’s so simple … very little cost … very little effort … quick transition time … tremendous savings.
At my hotel that evening, I did a little surfing to further my investigation. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps track of commercial passenger traffic for the United States. For the 12 months ending February 29, 2008, there were 735 million U.S. passengers flying over 366 days, which equals about 2 million passengers per day on average.
Let’s low-ball this equation by assuming that, using this new strategy, the airlines saved one single boarding pass for each customer. It’s quite obvious that many of those passengers would have required several boarding passes. However, assuming one pass per passenger, the airline industry saved a minimum of 735 million pieces of paper over the past year and who knows how much ink. It would indeed be interesting to calculate what that means in dollars and cents. In addition, I can’t imagine another industry that needs that savings more than those flying our costly skies today.
Share this example with your team members in the near future. Allow them 24 hours to brainstorm the application of this simple but powerful strategy to your own business. Meet the following day and chart the results of their efforts. What are some of the things you might “stop doing” to reduce costs and increase efficiency? Remember, your findings don’t have to involve large projects, policies, or procedures. Little changes can make an enormous difference!