An overly large focus on the way things “should be” is one of the biggest inhibitors to innovation and productive action. A focus on what should be rather than what can be inhibits new ideas and siphons off a tremendous amount of energy. Though this is a problem throughout most organizations, it seems to be a particular hazard for enterprise and business architects. I have never understood why this type of thinking shows up so strongly in the architecture space. Maybe it comes from the current state to future state paradigm that dominates the thinking here. Or maybe it is grounded in the psyche of people who are attracted to these spaces – they are typically big thinkers often buried in operational organizations.
Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, describes the difference between focusing on your circle of influence versus your circle of concern. Time and energy spent outside your circle of influence is wasted – you have no influence there and can’t be effective. But time spent inside your circle of influence, no matter how small it is, creates change. When you get things done, people notice. The more effective you are at driving change the more influence you gain. And your circle of influence grows.
Thinking about what “should be” can be productive if the “should be” is within your circle of influence. Here you can change things. Here, envisioning what “should be” can lead to innovation and change. But most often I hear people talking about what should be in the context of “it just shouldn’t be that way” or “somebody should change that”. If that somebody is you, OK. If it is somebody else, then you are in your circle of concern and are wasting your time.
Should, shouldn’t matter. It might be nice to think about – to blame others for the state of the world or our organizations. But at the end of the day it gets in the way of getting real work done. It gets in the way of making things happen. It gets in the way of creating more influence and growing your career.
We should take “should” out of our vocabulary. For highly effective people there is only: what is, what can be, and what we want to do about it.