I used to work for a guy who when it came time to allocate resources would always ask the same question… is that a “need to do” or a “nice to do?”
It didn’t make any difference if the resource being allocated was time, people, money or a combination of the three the question was usually the same. It always made me stop and think.
What I discovered was that for any business or organization relatively few things are a “need to do.” There are some activities that are vital for success. Things like investing in future products, excelling at what should be your core competencies, preparing the organization’s next generation of leaders, and building long-term meaningful customer relationships based on trust are a few of the key “need to do” items.
If you’re wondering what some of the “nice to do” things might be let me sum it up like this…if it is not “need to do” then it is “nice to do.” Most things businesses and organizations do are nice to do. They may not have a long-term impact but they “seem” productive and oh by the way, they are usually easier to do than the “need to do” things.
I have no problem with anyone doing the “nice to do” things that can sometimes be described as “the little extra” that customers love. I have no problem so long as the “nice” things aren’t done at the expense of or instead of the “need” things.
For instance, let’s say you run a car wash and a “nice” to do is giving every customer a free air freshener as they enter the car wash. The customers seem to appreciate the air fresheners but they do not appreciate the fact that their cars are returned to them dirty.
If you’re running a car WASH then getting the car clean would seem to me to be a core competency. Air fresheners are nice but I can’t imagine a car wash customer that wouldn’t trade that for a clean car.
Every time you make a decision to take action in your business or organization you should ask yourself is this a “need to do” or a “nice to do?” I cannot imagine a single “nice” that would ever take precedence over a “need.” At least not if you intend to be successful.
Of course you also must be honest with yourself about what the “needs” really are. I’ve been known to convince myself that a “nice” was a “need” simply because I wanted to do it.
I try to think of it like this: nothing can be nice until the needs are taken care of. Adding up all the “nice” you could possibly do will not outweigh a single “need.” That’s why it’s so important that you know the true “needs” of your organization.