Management Tactic #25: Make Yourself Obsolete

A wise man once told me that it was his goal in every job he had to make himself obsolete.

Yeah, that needed some explaining at the time.

He was slightly exaggerating to make a point. The point was that he is always looking for ways to diminish the inefficient and unproductive parts of his job so that he could do more and do better. Also, he wanted to simplify his job as much as possible so that someone else could easily take it on, and he could move on the bigger and better responsibilities.

This is the exact opposite of the way many people do their jobs. Many people stretch out the mundane parts of their jobs to fill as much time as possible. They hide what they do and avoid transparency so that it comes across to their superiors as if they’re the only ones who can do their jobs. Those people are so afraid of becoming obsolete.

The key to understanding this is by making yourself obsolete at your current job, you make yourself considerably less obsolete to your company. You actually make yourself more valuable to your company, because you’ve demonstrated that you can do more than they thought you could.

I got this advice a few years ago, right before I began my current job. And on day 1, I started keeping a record of all of my duties and how I did them. I simplified my tasks, made them more efficient, and recorded them. (This goes along with what I call the “hit-by-bus” mentality. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I’d like someone else to be able to take over at least the fundamental aspects of my job simply by following my prerecorded instructions.)

I don’t have the authority to implement this idea where I work, but someday, if I ever run my own business, I’d like to have a standing policy that says if anyone can make their job obsolete, I’ll give them a raise and a promotion. Simple as that. Because I want to encourage people to innovate and think and challenge the status quo. I want people to ask why we do the things we do instead of just blindly going through the motions. I want people who don’t want to settle into a desk doing the same old thing that a kid fresh out of college could do in a quarter of the time.

How have you made yourself obsolete?