Unstuck Your Team by Removing Meaningless Work


Team members are frustrated because they feel they are working on irrelevant tasks or projects.


Allow your team to review and prioritize its workload––create a space to get rid of meaningless work.


1. Get all your entire team in a room–this exercise is more effective when everyone’s present.

2. Launch: Kick-off with an icebreaker to create awareness and a “safe space.” Setting up the room is critical: the more honest the feedback, the more significant the impact you can create.

3. List: Ask your team to write a list of the things they’ve done in the past two weeks. Ideally, they should list all activities day by day. The more obsessive and detailed, the better. Meetings, phone calls, preparations, breaks, etc. Everything needs to be captured. Everyone should do this on her/his own.

4. Categorize: Let everyone assign emojis to their respective tasks (using a playful tone helps). To keep it simple, stick to three levels:

5. Group: Let each person group the activities into three levels (smiling, neutral, angry). Ask them to find a theme for each group: one sentence that captures the ‘why.’

6. Consolidate: Divide the team into groups of five or six. Ask them to share their findings within their group.

7. Consolidate: Each team should consolidate individual analysis into one. Keep in mind what each category stands for:

a. The Happy Face stands for “activities that we love and want to spend more time and do more of those.”

b. The Neutral Face stands for “activities that we are OK doing and have no objection to doing more of those or spending more time when needed.”

c. The Angry Face stands for “activities that make us feel stuck that we want to stop doing (or simplify them) so we can spend the least time possible on them.”

7. Share out: Each group presents to the rest.  Provide time for questions and discussions.

8. Your role: You, as the boss, can also ask questions. But only at the end–avoid influencing the team. Be patient. Especially if the team criticizes an activity or project that is close to your heart.

9. Prioritize: It’s time to remove tasks. Let your team choose the top three activities they want to get rid of. It can be a report, a status meeting, a specific policy, etc.

10. Eliminate: It’s time to build a plan. Choose one activity that will be immediately “removed” from the team workload. At least for 30 days.

11. Eliminate more: On week two, remove the activity that was second on the list. Following the above pattern.

12. Eliminate even more: On week three, repeat the same process but, this time, with the third activity on the list.

14. Monitor: Check out if eliminating tasks affects (or not) overall performance and business results. You might need to bring some tasks back. Be patient, though–an initial variance might not be significant in the long-run. In most of the cases, we’ve run this exercise, nothing happens. No one knows better what matters (or not) than your team.

Depending on the dynamics of your business, you can run this exercise once a quarter or every month. What is exciting for a team today can become irrelevant tomorrow.

Go ahead — unstuck your team.

Additional Reading

Why People Feel Stuck at Work