We’ve all heard of the SMART goal acronym. Tom Deierlein just wrote a great article on SMART goals and it’s wise to see if a goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specific before taking it on.
But what about the stuff that we might be doing now?
Well here’s a STUPID acronym you can use as a sanity check.
You don’t have to have a check mark next to every letter of the acronym to pass the stupid test; just one with an asterisk may be enough. Use it as a guide that can help you identify and stop a useless or destructive habit, practice, project, process, ritual, or routine.
Here it is.
Stupid processes or initiatives are often safe. People don’t get fired for doing things they’ve always done. Changing course, introducing innovations etc. are unsafe because they disrupt the existing order.
If it’s safe, it’s a ‘stupid’ candidate. Not necessarily, but it might be.
Alternatively, is it selfish? If a practice or habit is selfish it means either no else benefits, or your actions hurt other people. That means at best you’re not making friends or worse—making enemies. That’s stupid.
Does the thing cost a lot of time? For what benefit? If it’s taking a lot of time and the payoff is not great then it’s a sign that it may be a stupid practice.
What would happen if we stopped doing this thing? Nothing? Then it’s stupid to keep doing it. Do you really need three signatures for low expenditures?
Does it impose cost with no value? Yes? Then it’s stupid. Like the true story of a company that required it’s employees to get a signed permission slip to take their computers home, but after six the security guard who checked for the slip was gone so they just waited till six and left with the laptop. Stupid.
Stupid practices are often done for political reasons. It’s done because it’s a pet project or process of someone who can hurt the people who question it.
Take the company that refused to change the layout of a form simply because the CEO was the one who originally designed it.
If you’re doing something only for political reasons it’s a good indication that it’s stupid. See “selfish’ above.
Is a process ineffective? If it doesn’t produce it’s intended result why are we doing it?
If a process is effective but is wasteful compared to other alternatives, why haven’t we changed it?
Lastly, if a project or process distracts you or your organisation from important actions relevant to an ultimate purpose then it’s stupid.
Is the thing destructive now or in the mid to long-term and are there alternatives? Fossil fuels are the poster child for this test. We continue to rely on fossil fuels despite the overwhelming evidence that it is causing an accelerated and destructive climate change. This reliance is stupid because there are alternatives.
Why do we do stupid stuff?
Because we often don’t ask the question “Why?” and we don’t think of the real consequences of our actions. If it feels good now … hey, game on!
When new people come into an organisation and ask why do we do this or that process, or why is something done this way, it’s an opportunity to evaluate.
But we often don’t.
We make up a reason, or just say “Because we’ve always done it this way.” The newbie gets the message and stops asking.
Purpose should never be forgotten and should always be revisited because problems and solutions change. Have a practice of periodically asking relevant questions: Why do we do this? Why do we do it this way?
Having a practice of revisiting purpose is essential to a thinking, learning organisation or person.
Are you doing stupid stuff?
Bureaucratic organisations often do S.T.U.P.I.D. stuff, and stopping stupid stuff begins with strong individuals with the courage to stand up and the wisdom to not take anything personally.
Take the challenge to think about your current habits and practices. My guess is you’ll find a couple that fail the STUPID test.
Don’t feel bad though. It’s smart to identify them and stop doing them. It’s only stupid if you continue doing them afterwards.