I live on an old farm. Most of our buildings and equipment are old — decades older than most of you reading this. So I face a never ending list of things that need to be fixed. Often, the process of getting those things fixed involves working through multiple decisions.

Here’s a typical old farm problem: One of our tenant’s heat doesn’t work. We really need the rent. But if we let the tenant freeze, she probably won’t be inclined to pay the rent.

In order to fix her heat, we need the right tool. We do have the tool, but it needs repair.

Doug, my partner in managing the farm, will of course want to fix the tool (because he has a degree in physics and can fix many things just by the laying on of his hands). But he can’t fix everything. I frequently find him obsessing over how to fix something.

Decisions, decisions

What follows is a decision matrix for our tool predicament. The reason I’m going into this is that the matrix has clear parallels to making decisions for the average communications problem.

  1. Do we need it to get the job done?
    (Or for a communications problem: Do we need it to achieve our goals?)

    • If No — then move on.
    • If Yes — then…
  2. Is it worth fixing? (As opposed to Can it be fixed?)
    (For a communications problem: Is this the best use of our budget?)

    • If No — then take the broken tool to the dump and jump ahead to #5.
      (For a communications problem: Shove that idea in the back of your bottom drawer and hope everyone forgets it.)
    • If Yes — then…
  3. Can we hire someone better than we are to fix it?
    • If Yes — then call the right person for the job.
    • If No — then…
  4. Can Doug fix it? (For a communications problem: Do we have the in-house talent, brains and resources to get the job done? )
    • If Yes — then get it done and move on.
    • If No — then…
  5. Is a new one available for purchase? (For a communications problem: Can we buy a better solution? )
    • If No — then determine the fastest alternative way to do whatever it is that needs doing, and move on.
    • If Yes — then…
  6. Is the cost in this month’s budget?
    • If Yes — then write a check, purchase the new tool, and move on.
    • If No — then the project has to wait and we figure out a different way around the problem.

Time, money, and data

Okay, I realize there are a few differences between fixing a broken pipe on my farm and deciding what projects you take on in your communications efforts. But still, in both settings we work through similar sorts of decision trees when deciding how and why to continue or proceed on projects.

For instance, suppose someone says, “We need a newsletter to target potential employees!” Do you just dive in and start designing a newsletter? Or are you more thoughtful, and reply, “What is the data that suggests that a newsletter will fix your recruiting problem?”

You probably have a lot more data in the office than I do on the farm. Even if you don’t have a robust measurement program in place, your digital analytics, sales, and/or finance departments doubtless have some data that will inform you as to how similar projects have performed in the past. Look at the cost versus the return and decide if it’s worth doing. This is important because in 2021 you won’t have time to screw around with projects that don’t work (see “Katie Paine Makes 10 Communications Measurement Predictions for 2021…”).

Overall, the lesson is the same: We all only have so much time and money to spend on any given project. How much of that time you want to spend is up to you. The budget may or may not be.

So your mantra in 2021 should be: Follow the data and make decisions based on it. Stop doing the stupid stuff that you don’t have time for and do what the research says you need.

The point is: Use your time to do the things that are necessary to achieve your goals. For everything else, either spend the money to do it efficiently or assign it to the dustbin of history. ∞

(Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.)

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