I love it when one connection leads to another. Sid Jaffe is president of Advantage Consulting Inc, a top-notch DC-area firm that trains companies in the fine art of government contracting and proposal writing. Sid, in turn, introduced me to Duane Grove, one smart-as-heck consultant who is as home with quoting philosophers as he is with detailing strategic activities. (You can read more about him at the end of this article.)
I read an article that Duane wrote and found it to have such universal meaning that I asked to share it with my readers. Here it is, with his permission.
Six Words to Banish From Your Organization By Duane Grove
Poet E.E. Cummings isn’t always the easiest author to follow. His writings are often veiled in deeper meaning. In his poem, “Effie’s Head,” he describes an encounter with God at the death of Effie. There is tremendous wisdom in this poem that calls to mind the great intentions of humankind often thwarted by lack of action.
Cummings speaks to six crumbs as God looks inside Effie’s coffin, each which speak to what could have been but never was. These six crumbs (or words) are ones you should banish from your organization. They are: may, might, should, could, would, and must.
These words used in organizations are barriers to action. I “may” be able to get the task done by the deadline speaks to a lack of commitment. You “might” consider using the prototype only speaks to what is possible but lacks specificity on how to take action. I “should” change the proposal to address the customer’s need for schedule flexibility only talks to what options you have but no path to implement them. The team “could” talk to the customer to see what they need has no commitment to closure and lacks accountability. I “would” like to implement the product change to align with the market will never get you to realize the potential. Finally, when you “must” finish a task, you speak to the obligations you have to address, but lacks the energy to make them happen.
How many times have you left a meeting believing that others (or yourself) are committed to action only to find things left unfinished just when you needed them? In my experience, discussions at meetings are often filled with these six words. When used to evaluate alternatives, these words can open doors, but when it comes to commitment, they have no place in the discourse. Are these six words keeping you from making progress? If so, make a commitment to eliminate them from your vocabulary when you know it is action that is required. Intention alone—no matter how well meaning—is the enemy of results.
Duane is the founder of Connect2Action, a strategy execution specialist at the intersection of employee engagement and executive leadership, igniting innovation as a lever to accelerate growth. Duane has over 15 years in developing and executing strategic plans and spearheading new business areas ranging in size from several million to $2.5 billion in annual sales. He has extensive experience in aerospace & defense with multiple assignments over the last 30 years.