I just finished reading the book “Rework”, which is a nice little gem of short (1 to 2 page) thoughts and ideas about how to conduct business (geared more to small business and owner/operated businesses than the Fortune 500 type).
One of the author’s contentions in the book (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, who founded and run the company 37 Signals) is that often you need to stop what you are doing and consider first “why” you are doing it — it may actually not be valuable, useful work to do. From page 100:
“It’s easy to put your head down and just work on what you think needs to be done. It’s a lot harder to pull your head up and ask why. Here are some important questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re doing work that matters:
- Why are you doing this?
- What problem are you solving?
- Is this actually useful?
- Are you adding value?
- Will this change behavior?
- Is there an easier way?
- What could you be doing instead?
- It is really worth it?
While they include a short paragraph of further explanation for each of the questions, you certainly get the basic picture here just from the questions themselves.
Personally, I think this is a great set of questions that everyone should be asking themselves for every work assignment taken on (in fact, I’m mulling over them as a write this short blog post and trying to answer them in my head… why am I doing this? I wonder… Is this actually useful? Hmmm…. Will this change behavior? Am I adding value? What great questions…!!).
So, whether you work for yourself or are a mere cog in the machinery of some vast industrial complex, ask yourself — why? And if the work you’re doing doesn’t make much sense to you, there’s a great likelihood it doesn’t make much sense to a lot of other people also, possibly including your bosses and your customers. And you owe it to your organization and your own sanity to at least start that conversation.