Jeff Gusdorf: Getting out of Do-Do

Moving your company from the unhappy state of do-do to the happy state of done-done.

Jeff Gusdorf, CPA, is STAFDA’s business technology consultant and writes STAFDA’s Technology Advisory.

I am not kidding. This article is about getting out of do-do! “Do-do” is the mode most business people seem to always be stuck in — head down, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grind stone, push, push, push. We are always doing. Maybe it makes us feel better. Maybe it is an animal instinct that comes from ancient history. Wherever it came from, it can be expensive, less productive than we think and can make us downright ineffective.

It is easy to fool ourselves when we are hard at “do-do” work. As a matter of fact, we often call it busy work. We look busy. That gets us promoted. We work extra hours. We complain that we cannot get away from our desks. We always seem to be in “do-do” mode.

What is important is to get out of the “do-do” trap and instead strive for “done-done.” It is important to do work, but it’s more important to get work done. Finish something. Get results. Move forward.That is a very important business lesson. Find the places in your organization where there is just too much “do-do.” This is true of any operation. It seems especially prevalent in the world of small business. The most successful people and the most profitable businesses (other than government) are always finishing things. They operate, live in and encourage “done-done.”

One old saying that fits is: “the good is the enemy of the best.” How often will we keep tweaking something to try and make it just a little bit better? Or even perfect? Instead, we should get to the point where it gets the job done – right – and get it out the door.

More progress will be made when we are taking care of our customers. Deliver the results you know that they need. Let them tell you if anything needs to be improved. If they are happy, you can be happy.

Sometimes we just need to test our assumptions of what we think the customer wants from us. Try a small test sample. Be prepared to be surprised. Learn from the market. Make adjustments; try it again; get more feedback and keep working at it until the market says, “You have what we want.” Then deliver with excellence.

Be fast, get things done, but do not accept sloppy work. Poor quality will hurt you every time. Appropriate quality that gets the job done is usually much faster to market, less expensive to do, will satisfy the customer and builds a strong “done-done” reputation.

We have all heard the expression, “paralysis by analysis.” This is a natural consequence of living in a “do-do” world. We have all seen companies that miss opportunities because they studied it to death. They are worried they might miss something. They are afraid of
being wrong. So they never get that new initiative done.

In our modern world, Action Trumps Everything (this is the subtitle of a book by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles Kiefer and Paul B. Brown; I met Len while participating in a special program for Entrepreneurship Educators at Babson College). We need to keep moving forward. We need to take action and get things done.

One super secret for doing that is simply metrics. We can manage anything we can measure. If we know what it is we want to accomplish, how to measure our success, and are willing to commit to results, there is little we cannot accomplish.

I am going to stay away from the simplistic “gross sales revenue” and dig deeper into the possibility to move an organization out of “do-do” mode. In any selling-based operation, it is critical to get the product to the customer as quickly as possible. How many of
you measure the time from order receipt to the product has gone out the door?

In so many organizations I have seen in the last 40-plus years, there are all kinds of busy work that only slows down progress. But, since we do not measure it, those responsible can constantly complain about how busy they are.

For example, many companies pick an order and then (due to past shipping errors) manually check the whole order to make sure it is correct before packing.
This continues even if bar code readers have been implemented and comparing estimated package weights to actual. These two methods usually resolve over 90 percent of all shipping errors.

If we are willing to start to track the number of shipping errors made, there are three things that might happen. First, we may find that the number of errors has already dropped to almost zero and manually recounting every pick is a total waste of time – so it can be eliminated and thereby almost double our productivity immediately. Stop the busy work and get it done and out the door!

Second, we may find there really is a high error rate. Now the metrics can be used to focus in and find out why. What are the most common errors? Are they miss-picks of package size? If this is the case, instituting a system where each package is weighed before shipping will capture UOM (unit of measure) errors before the
package can leave the dock. The errors can be tracked and the process managed to eliminate each problem while reducing the time and cost involved.

Finally, we may find that most problems are traced to customers who order the wrong thing. All of the double checking of a pick ticket will never fix the problem, but it will create a lot of busy work. The metrics will force us to look at the order entry process itself. What can we do to minimize incorrect orders? Once we know what the problem really
is, we can work to correct it.

In today’s world of automation and easy to capture metrics, not using them to better manage our work load is a real shame. The systems have been paid for, the capabilities are there, the data is already being collected and the only thing missing is a decision to get something done.

We need to try things, learn from the experience, correct course and try again. It is OK to perfect ideas by trial and error. Put this mind set into effect and you will be rewarded with ultimate success, better processes and an environment where continuous improvement rules.

Some people will say, “But that is not our culture.” I respectfully disagree. Culture should not be used as an excuse for not doing the right thing. Culture is the glue that holds groups together. Do not confuse culture with bad habits. Get out of the “do-do” bad habits and move into the profitability of “done-done.”

There is plenty of opportunity to grow, expand and improve. Stop thinking about it and start getting something done. You will be amazed at how much can be accomplished. CS

Jeff Gusdorf, CPA, is STAFDA’s business technology consultant and writes STAFDA’s Technology Advisory. His firm, the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group, publishes the Distribution and Manufacturing Software Guides and the Software Selection Handbook, available via the members-only section of Jeff can be reached at