Last weekend was perfect weather to clean up our perennial garden. After a few days of much needed heavy rains, the sun was shining again. The garden was springing back to life with plenty of green shoots (sadly, the deer and rabbits did chew off a few) and vigorous growth. So it was time to sharpen the pruning shears and clean up all the winter kill and dead plants from last season.

This is a great time for management teams to sharpen their shears for a disciplined pruning and clean-up of old projects and dead initiatives. Many managers and their teams keep adding to their To-Do lists with new plans, objectives, and projects. But only the most effective put as much effort into their To-Stop lists.

A chronic complaint of many frontline staff and supervisors is priority overload. They are constantly being asked to take on more work and urgent new priorities are constantly pushed on them. But rarely are priorities rigorously reshuffled, initiatives chopped, and goals moved down the list. This relentless pressure to do it all not only adds to our growing disengagement and de-motivation problem, but it leads to massive amounts of wasted time and money.

One simple pruning activity is to pull together a master inventory of projects. This can be a lot harder than it sounds. Clients with just a few dozen teams and a few hundred staff find that the project list inventory can take weeks to compile once everyone is polled and asked for input. There are generally 50, 75, or more than a 100 projects, initiatives, and old To-Do lists being used in all sorts of nooks and crannies throughout the organization. Once everyone sees the master list, there’s a sense of incredulity and lots of “how could we have let this happen?” Duplication, redundancy, rework, overlaps, and wasted time become much clearer. This provides a foundation for strategic integration, improved coordination, and better planning.

But using To-Stop lists and disciplined pruning needs to be much more than an annual spring cleaning or occasional activity. Peak performing teams make this an on-going and normal part of their continuous improvement quest.

CLICK HERE to review archived articles from my monthly newsletter on common causes of the problem and tips for ongoing pruning and managing priority overload. CLICK HERE to peruse a selection of articles on this vital topic.