My wife and I have decided to move. We originally picked our home location because it was equidistant between my work and my wife’s work. But I work from home now and my wife is retiring, so there’s no longer a good reason to stay here. Instead, we’re going to be looking for a house that’s closer to our grandkids.
We’ve been living in our current house for sixteen years — that’s the longest we’ve ever lived in one place during our entire lives. But there’s a real downside to living in a single place that long: During the next few months we’re going to have to go through sixteen years of accumulated stuff and figure out what we really need.
I’m a process person by nature, and so naturally my thoughts have gone to how I can set up a process to make this weeding-out challenge easier. I’ve mentally categorized my stuff, and I’ve made some initial conclusions about how to deal with each category. But in thinking about all this, it struck me that the main decision I have to make is whether I’m going to use a “push” process, a “pull” process, or a combination of the two.
Push versus Pull
A push process starts with the stuff I have, and then pushes each item through a conceptual sieve, eliminating the things that aren’t as important and allowing only the truly important things to pass through to the new house. A pull process, on the other hand, starts with the new house and defines all of the things that I will need. Then the needed things are moved (“pulled”) to the new house, and everything else is sold off, given away or thrown out.
A Pull Process Example: Cleaning Out a Kitchen Utensil Drawer
The pull process is a little harder to understand, so let me give you an example. All of you probably have a kitchen utensil drawer that has filled up with spatulas, whisks, pizza cutters, lemon zesters, vegetable peelers, shrimp deveiners and other random utensils. If you’re like most people, your drawer is so full that you occasionally have trouble opening and closing it. Here’s how to clean out that kitchen utensil drawer using a pull process:
- Take everything out of the drawer and put it in a box. Put the box someplace that’s easy to access but out of sight — maybe under the sink.
- When you need a utensil, look in in the drawer first. If the utensil is not in the drawer, then take it out of the box and use it. But after you’ve cleaned the utensil, put it in the drawer instead of the box. Initially you’ll go to the box quite a bit for the utensils you need. But after the first few days you won’t go to the box very often at all.
- After several weeks, take the box and move it to someplace that’s harder to access.
- After several months or more, get rid of all the stuff in the box. You obviously don’t need it.
Now it’s easy enough to apply this approach to a kitchen utensil drawer, but it’s harder to do this with the entire contents of your house. And it’s especially difficult when some of the things are seasonal — we probably won’t need our swimsuits during the next few months before the move, but that doesn’t mean we should throw them away. So that means that I’m having to do “thought experiments” along with my pull process. I have to make a list of our seasonal activities, and then I have to imagine us doing those things so that I can see what stuff we need.
I’m early in the getting-ready-to-move process, and I will undoubtedly learn more as I go along. But ideally I would like to achieve the goal set forth by the English designer, William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I’ve got a long way to go.
Sidebar: Applying Push/Pull to IT and Management
- Apply the push/pull thought process to a facility move or a data center move
- Use a push or pull process for systems design. For example, when moving from an old system to a new system, you can use the push approach and figure out what old system capabilities have to be migrated to the new system. Or you can take a “clean slate” approach and define the business processes required in the new system, then figure out what system processes in the old system should be migrated to meet those requirements.
- Use a push or pull process for staffing a new business location. You can use a push approach and figure out which current people you want to move to the new location. Or you can use a pull approach and define the hypothetical staffing requirements for the new location, then determine which current people best fit those requirements.
- Use a push or pull process for migrating from an old PC to a new one. Push the stuff you’ll know you need. Then hold back on the rest until you have a specific need on the new PC. When you do, “pull” the software or data from the old PC. (This assumes that you either hold on to the old PC or keep a full backup of the old PC’s hard disk where you can get to it.)
- If your data center is overwhelmed by creating hundreds of business reports, then use the pull approach to cut back. Delay selected reports by a few days and see whether anyone complains. For reports that get no complaints, gradually delay them more and more. If you still get no complaints, then eliminate the report — it’s obviously not being used. Warning: make sure the reports aren’t required by SEC or Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.
- Use push and pull for connecting business strategy and IT strategy. Start with the business strategy and pull the projects you need into an IT strategy. Then start with the technology you already have, and think about how that technology can be better used to build enhance business benefit. Push those ideas into the business strategy.
- Use push and pull for business cost cutting. You can push your existing costs through an evaluation process, or you can do “zero based budgeting” and pull your essential services into your new budget based on what you really need in the business.