Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

When is enough ENOUGH?

I see a lot of our work as being a bit too big. Massive transformation programmes; huge change agendas and massive financial challenges.

Not much talk of “let’s save a few grand this year” or “enhance one of our services”.

  • It’s a £1.2m saving needed.
  • It’s a complete overhaul of our digital infrastructure.
  • It’s a completely new range of options for our customers.

They may be laudable goals, of course I’m all for stretch and growth.

In Jim Collins’ speak such goals may even be tagged as BHAGs. Big, Hairy Audacious Goals <to save you looking it up if you haven’t come across it before>.

As Wikipedia says :

… a strategic business statement similar to a vision statement which is created to focus an organization on a single medium-long term organization-wide goal which is audacious, likely to be externally questionable, but not internally regarded as impossible.

Big. And Hairy. And Audacious. It sounds pretty challenging, rousing, appealing even a bit frightening. It must be necessary then right?

But is it enough? And so what precisely in that Big…etc is enough? Is all of it’s hairiness needed? Is it total audacity or just a bit of audaciousness?

So when is enough ENOUGH?

One example is a piece of work I was involved in this week. A BHAG. It had (apparently) been talked about for months and months and in the bucket list of aspirations for years probably.

And in two hours, we had enough. It wasn’t big, hairy or audacious. It was small, furless and gentle.

But it was enough to get going. Where previously nothing had happened.

I saw it again the following day. And the day after that.

Is EVERYTHING big these days?

“It’s all well and good for a small start up, but we’re huge with a long history so that won’t work here.”

  • When did I say you had to do ALL that?
  • Where was it I said you’d fail if you only did a tiny bit of this but it was something that made things better?

So can we stop excusing ourselves from action simply because stuff’s too big?

It’s big because it’s made up of lots (and lots and lots perhaps) of smaller things.

So can we not decide what’s small enough to tackle and that would make enough of a difference for now?

I am beginning to see that we don’t use the word enough in the right way at all, hence this prose.

We’ve got record growth and profits we may be fortunate to say.

Great, but what was enough profit and growth?

Have you actually created a problem in the future now because you’ll never achieve that again? What will enough be next year after you’ve hit this peak? How will you feel with continued growth but nowhere near this level/percentage?

When’s enough ENOUGH?

We’re ever so engaged here. After listening to people we acted and now we’ve got record engagement.

OK fabulous. What is/was enough engagement?

Oh dear, all that engagement but we’ve had record levels of stress and burnout.

Oh that’s sad. What’s enough toleration of stressful conditions and what’s enough information / indicators to avoid burnout?

I hope we get the picture here: Sometimes enough IS enough. Any more and it might not be the bonus you think it is. And maybe less than enough is a tragedy to be avoided at all costs.

I’m beginning to think that enough is way more a powerful word than we give it credit for being. And it isn’t about setting any bars particularly low either. Or under-doing the aspirations of dreamers (of which, I’m a self-confessed idealist, dreamer-come-romantic).

In helping people work together recently, I’ve been seeing how powerful enough is. A meeting just long enough. A series of actions just long enough for now. A plan just long enough to establish founding parameters.

In my experiences of self-managed teams, agile squads, collaborative partners, learning pairs, enough appears to come up a lot more. It isn’t always said, sometimes implied but enough guides thoughts, conversations and actions a lot more than slightly more rigid and recognisable formats of interaction/decisions/doing.

I’m not certain how much consciousness, designed thinking and doing and just plain mental processing stock is put on this judicious use of enough in those circumstances. It could be part natural occurrence from deliberate design.

For example, I would guess the prototype, MVP, next-viable product and final viable product approach is helping us with enough.

Sketch it enough, build enough to get a feel for it and, iterate enough to test it more stringently, polish it enough for us to be proud of our product/service.

Now this may drive “evidentialists” (people who are obsessive over evidence-based practice) mad. “Enough what kind of measure/evidence support this? You can’t just say enough surely?”

Yet just saying to people “What’s enough here?” may just channel people into thinking about the evidence that would support such a vague assertion.

Enough has to be backed up by enough evidence.

So what’s enough evidence to avoid paralysis by analysis or jump blindly into a risky venture? What does the evidence show about what is enough evidence? < is this Meta evidence perhaps?>.

Anyway, I guess I come back to this judicious use of enough. I’m advocating here that enough be out on your table, in your thoughts and of your conversations.

  • So when faced with your next massive or BHAG situation, maybe ask “What’s enough to get this going in the right way?”
  • When struggling to resolve a complex dilemma or paradox, maybe ask “What’s enough movement to narrow this gap between these two things?”
  • When faced with a huge systemic change challenge maybe ask “How much of this change is needed here, so how much of it is enough to achieve enough of our aims?”

Of course another form of enough is in the context of acquisition, avarice, abundance.

Do we ever have enough market share? Enough product variations?

Relentless pursuit of more can surely be appropriately tempered with a little sprinkling of enough..?

And then there’s never enough. Not sure we can ever have enough kindness, generosity, care, compassion, consideration, inclusion, empathy, love.

On that positive note I’ll leave you with this brain-worm:

Are you using ENOUGH enough?

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