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Oct 16 2013

What Would the Lazy Person Do?

I remember it as if it were yesterday.  I turned seven and my mother added folding laundry to my list of chores.  Nice birthday present!   I absolutely hated matching socks.   My three sisters and I all wore brown knee high socks which coordinated with our brown Catholic school uniforms and finding pairs was a boring and tedious job.   In one of my youthful brainstorms, I convinced my sisters to attach their dirty socks in pairs with clothes pins before they were washed.   My first failed innovation.   The clothes pins all ended up in the bottom of the washing machine and I had to sort the socks anyway.   But I will never forget my mother’s admonition: “Don’t be so lazy, just do your chores”.   I think that was the start of my career a lazy person.

Lazy has gotten a bad rap.   The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines lazy as “disinclined to activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous; encouraging inactivity or indolence; moving slowly; sluggish; droopy or lax”.  My definition is “why work harder than you have to” and it has served me well.

In 1989, I founded a business that specialized in laboratory analytical testing for the environmental industry.  The business expanded quickly and for the next eighteen years, no matter how “energetic” or “vigorous” I was, there was never enough time to do everything that needed to get done.   So, with each new activity I asked the employees “what would the lazy person do?”  And, that is what we did.  In fact, I think we perfected the science of lazy.

The lazy person does it right the first time.   Quality fads came and went.   However, a lazy person does their jobs right the first time.  No do-overs.  No returns.  No re-works.  No complaints from customers.  No prolonged meetings with the boss.   No extra expense.    A truly lazy person keeps their eye on how to minimize future effort.

The lazy person works well on teams.    Pretty simple.  Take the amount of work that has to get done and divide it by the number of people on the team.    Organize the team to work smoothly and mission accomplished.   An effective team means less effort.

The lazy person delegates effectively.    A lazy person will clearly outline the needed work, select the right staff, provide guidance and oversight but gets out of the way and lets others accomplish their goals.

The lazy person streamlines processes.    Why do ten steps if you can reduce it only five.   Less work and less chance of making a mistake makes the lazy person very happy.

The lazy person sets up an effective organization.   A lazy person will select the right staff and keep a lean organization.  Why keep an employee who doesn’t pull their weight, especially if you, the master of lazy, will have to work harder?  Balance the organization and be sure they are all working in the right direction.

The lazy person communicates clearly.   A lazy person is not interested in saying it twice or having miscommunication.

The lazy person is efficient.    Lean and six sigma are just politically correct ways of being lazy.  In fact, I think they stole the ideas from the lazy people.

The lazy person will implement technology effectively.   Why do something if an inanimate object can do it for you?    But, a lazy person will implement new technology only if the long term outcome will be to make life easier.

The lazy person innovates.   The lazy person is always looking for new ways to accomplish tasks with less time and effort.    Thinking outside the box and finding new solutions to old problems are the hallmark of a lazy person.

The lazy person doesn’t get involved in workplace politics.   Politics, gossip, backstabbing and end-runs are way too much effort for too little return.

The lazy person keeps customers happy.   A lazy person knows that it takes a lot more effort to find a new customer than to keep a current customer so the lazy person will go out of their way to ensure that current customers are well served.   A lazy person also knows that a happy customer will bring in new customers through word of mouth and build a company’s reputation faster and less expensive than efforts from the sales team.

The lazy person focuses on keeping margins high.   Lazy people focus on the bottom line.   For every dollar of sales, they try to increase the amount of profit.   Work less, make more.

The lazy person is happy.   The lazy person recognizes that there must be a balance between effort and outcome.   They constantly look at tasks, work, and life to keep the balance.   They take pride in productivity and the ease of accomplishment.

The next time you are contemplating a project and want it to be done efficiently, completely, correctly and profitably, ask yourself, “what would a lazy person do?”    I am proud to be a lazy person.    Oh, if my mother could hear me now!

By Stephanie Olexa, Strategic Business Advisor, Delaware Valley Family Business Center

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