Aw, cripes. Another one?
I’m talking about the KonMari method, how annoying fads like this are, and the likelihood we’ll have to deal with someone who thinks it’s clever to put us on the defensive by pointing out our unenlightened failure to apply it to our day-to-day business decisions.
In case you’ve been spared from awareness of this silly bit o’ fluff, it’s a methodology, invented by one Marie Kondo, for simplifying your life. The way it works: (1) Gather together all of one’s belongings, one category at a time; (2) keep only those things that “spark joy”; and (3) choose a place for everything from then on.
I tried it. I kept only those furnishings that sparked joy. My garbage cans didn’t make the cut. Out they went, and by the way, have you ever tried to throw a garbage can in the garbage? It’s a tricky proposition.
I conducted this trial as a thought experiment — my garbage cans are still here — because seriously, people fall for nonsense like this?
Understand, I’m severely jealous. Armed with such a patently preposterous proposition and adroit self-promotion, Marie Kondo, at the ripe old age of callow, has millions of devotees while I, saddled with a self-imposed requirement of subjecting ideas to at least 15 seconds of close scrutiny before sharing them with you, enjoy a more limited level of celebrity.
But never mind my virology failures. This is a column about preparedness, as in how will you respond when someone proposes that as a manager you should be applying the KonMari method to your areas of responsibility?
The question might be directly KonMari. More likely, it will be KonMcKinsey in phrasing instead (“prune underperforming assets”).
And by the way, in both locutions the underlying concept isn’t entirely stupid. If the point is to take a fresh look at all your stuff and recognize what you have in your closets, shelves, and dressers that’s only there because keeping it is easier than throwing it out, then yes, throw it out.
Based on our experience moving from a suburban townhouse to a downtown condo with substantially less storage, I can tell you many of our possessions were items we had no particular need for, and that’s after we jettisoned several hundred books we’d already read and would never read again.
In your business responsibilities, you also have “assets” where taking a fresh look isn’t unreasonable. The problem is the ROI (return on investment) mentality that’s usually associated with such evaluations.
By “ROI mentality” I mean the requirement, drilled into the heads of most managers like some form of business trepanning, that anything for which we can’t prove a direct financial return provides only “intangible benefits.”
This is such a nice turn of phrase, don’t you think? Technically, it means the benefits are non-financial in nature. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s wording carefully constructed to put managers advocating for these things on the defensive. We aren’t differentiating between financial and non-financial benefits. We can see, touch, and feel things that are tangible. Intangible is just one short step from imaginary.
But … isn’t insisting that everything produces a profit a good idea?
In a word, no. In several words, organizations aren’t portfolios of uncoupled assets. They’re assemblages of interconnected functions … services if you’re in an SOA frame of mind … that turn raw materials, also known as inputs, into the organization’s work products, also known as outputs.
Management’s job is to make sure each asset — each service, sub-service, sub-sub-service, and microservice — works as it’s supposed to in order to keep the joint running. Asking whether each asset provides proper value and ROI just misses the point entirely.
So if someone tries to drag you through a KonMari or KonMcKinsey exercise, be ready to explain, as patiently as you can, that your organization is a mechanism constructed of interconnected components, not a bag of assets.
And while it’s entirely valid to ask if each component is performing as it should, it’s entirely invalid to ask if it’s contributing enough value to be worth keeping.
It is, if you like, like asking how my garbage cans contribute to my income.
On hearing the question, it will be so, so tempting to point out that the asker isn’t sparking joy in my life.