Stop decorating the fish.

I don’t normally write about a book I haven’t read, but I came across a blog recently that explored Yishai Ashlag’s and Kristen Cox’s book Stop Decorating the Fish: Which Solutions to Ignore and which Problems Really Matter. It looks intriguing as it builds upon the dangerous concept concept “tyranny of the urgent.” I think we often get way too busy, focus on the small fires and not the real problems, and waste resources to oil the squeaky wheels while the engine is knocking all over the place.

The authors starts the book with the Seductive Seven – common tactics organizations employ to respond to problems …

  • More technology
  • More data
  • More strategy
  • More training and communication
  • More reorganization
  • More accountability and assigning blame
  • More money

Way too often, these efforts replace pursuing the real cause and do little to fix what needs to be fixed. To do that often takes extra energy, extra efforts, not extra things or programs … and asking the hard questions while avoiding quick fix bandaids. If you look at the list of the seven, you see a common factor – more. We think a problem is a lack of something so we do more. Thus we continue the busy cycle and often create more problems that we try to fix with more which continues the busy cycle which creates problems which we try to fix with more which creates problems which we try to fix with more which creates … get the point?

So we need to identify the real problem and work that, or ignore that, because some things don’t need the effort to fix. The principle is to achieve a goal, not eliminate problems.

First, these leaders understand that achieving a goal is very different from eliminating a problem. The former requires creating something new, while the latter attempts to get rid of something that already exists. It’s like looking in the rearview mirror while driving. When we focus on what exists, we miss out on exploring new terrain.

Stop Decorating the Fish

As leaders, we are to advance a cause, achieve a goal, complete a project. Sometimes the seductive seven just get in the way.

As a leader in a church, a home, a community … I ask myself do I often yield to the seductive seven when I need to keep working forward? Do I paint a fish while I supposed to be building a bigger fish tank?

And when it comes to more … there really is only one thing more we need … more of Jesus in our lives. Oh, we have all we need in the power of the Spirit, in the authority of the Lord, in the love of the Father … but we need more of it in our lives. We have all we need but we don’t keep it closeted, shelf it, hide it under a bushel.

I close with a few quotes from one of the authors, Kristen Cox …

... exceptional leaders understand that most problems aren’t worth solving 
... innovation happens because of restraints, not despite of them
... if we begin our work from a place of what we know rather than what we want to achieve, we are hindered from the get-go
... demonstrating is always better than trying to persuade-in other words, show, don’t tell
... When we understand what to stop doing, we create the space and discipline to imagine what is possible

Stop decorating the fish!






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