The Abandonment Question

In a series of questions that every organisation needs to ask itself, we looked at the purpose question. Now we look at Abandonment.


In Hindu Philosophy there is the idea of Trimurti,

in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver and Shiva the destroyer or transformer.”

This is the same idea here. The idea that what is created,will need to be maintained for a while but there is a time when it has to end. This is important for new creation.

Jack Bergstrand asks,″ What should we stop doing?”

There’s a natural tendency for company leaders to focus on what they should start doing immediately. But the harder question has to do with what you’re willing to eliminate. If you can’t answer that question, Bergstrand maintains, it lessens your chances of being successful at what you want to do next–because you’ll be sucking up resources doing what’s no longer needed and taking those resources away from what should be a top priority.” Moreover, if you can’t figure out what you should stop doing, it might be an early warning sign that you don’t know what your strategy is.

I struggle to abandon stuff. Even simple things like clothes that have not been used for a long time. It is a natural human tendency to cling to our past”. May be it will be useful in sometime. What if I need it for that occasion? This inertia is the same for organisations. There is organisational history and inertia that will force you to think about all the reasons something is valuable and cannot be eliminated. The first step towards innovation is abandonment.

In the Purpose Question, we looked at the Theory of the Business framework. This is the troika of environment, values/mission, and core competencies. The important thing to remember in this context is that this is only a set of assumptions.

Planned Abandonment

The question Drucker asks, What is our business?, will help us answer our current understanding and the theory of the business as it stands. However, this is based on a set of assumptions about the changing environment, the needs of the customer that will be different in the future and the market and technology is always moving. This requires that we are adaptive.

To this, Drucker adds a second question, What will our business be?. The idea behind this question is to question your assumptions and test them against reality. Do they still stand? Is there a need to change them? To what?

In order to tackle this change one of the first principles is planned abandonment”.

Planned Abandonment is removing programs and activities that are decreasing in relevance or not producing adequate results. Drucker asks, If we are not committed to this today, would we go into it?If the answer is no…how can we get our –- fast?”

Planned abandonment fees up resources and talent. To consider and follow-through with planned abandonment requires courage and discipline.

When I ask this question, there is generally pin-drop silence in a room. Most people think about improvement, innovation - all the things you need to do. The to-do list. Abandonment is your stop-doing list and we are not good at that.

Creative Destruction

On a larger scale, this is true too. The economist, Joseph Schumpeter wrote about creative destruction” in 1942.

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.

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