In the ancient practice of Feng Shui, the energies of any given space are balanced to assure health and good fortune for the people inhabiting it. To bring order to the environment, practitioners often begin by clearing out clutter for energy to flow. In short, they tidy up.

I recently read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and was struck by the parallels to work. Here are several of her points that relate to tidying up your staff:

The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

You spend a lot of time working. How you feel at work impacts your life. The magic of having the right people in the right roles and coaching out the wrong people will transform your work satisfaction, not to mention the improvement in company morale and results.

If someone is not the right fit, simply shuffling them to another role may not result in an optimal fit for the company or the person. If there’s a skill mismatch, another role might be appropriate. But if the mismatch is soft skill, you aren’t improving the company’s overall situation moving someone to another department.


One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making.

Kondo suggests that tidying means taking each item and asking yourself whether it sparks joy, and deciding whether to keep it.

You can use the same process in your hiring. If a person on your team is performing and positively adding to the team dynamic, then the decision to keep them on your team is obvious. What may not be as obvious is the positive effect of rewarding your best performers.

A recent human resource conference speaker noted that most companies are good at identifying their high potentials but then they don’t disproportionately reward them.

With practice sharing frequent feedback outside the annual review process, it becomes easier to see a situation that needs to be changed and start the process to carry out a change fairly. You’ll have confidence and solid judgement as to when to make changes rather than look back six months or a year later and say “I should have done this so long ago”. (The comment we hear often when we’re called on to help find a new person).


When we explore the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.

You can substitute “something” with “someone”….in your department, in your life.

Here’s what Kondo advises to get through a point of indecision: “When you come across an item during tidying that doesn’t spark joy but you can’t bring yourself to throw it away, ask yourself if this is because of an attachment to the past or a fear of the future. It’s important to ask this question; it’s an expression of your values that guide you. It represents the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including relationships with people and your job.”

My sense is that most of the time when a manager is unable to release a team member and find a new one, it’s somewhat due to attachment to the status-quo, however imperfect or even downright miserable. More often it’s due to fear of the possibility that a change could be worse than status quo. A strong sense of loyalty to the person rather than an objective focus on what needs to be accomplished for success in the role plays in as well.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable in what the future brings. It’s not perfectly predictable, and if you make a change on your team and you need to adjust this decision later, that’s ok. Very few decisions are so permanent that they can’t be reversed.


One of the reasons clutter eats away at us is because we have to search for something just to find out if it’s even there. When we have reduced the amount we own, we can tell if we have it in a glance. We can shift gears to start thinking about what to do (not where is it).

What comes to mind for me is having people on your team who either aren’t skilled at their role or who have some decent level of skill but who aren’t able to effectively communicate. Think of a technical person (engineering, accounting) who doesn’t recognize an actionable situation or can’t communicate possible impacts in a way that enables decision making. If you can’t quickly identify who has the data, where it is or what it means, you waste time trying to find it and don’t make decisions in a timely manner.

Most people who have finally de-cluttered their departments find their lives changed. If you need help objectively looking at the roles in your group and performance of team members to determine if there could be tidying opportunities, give us a ring.