3 Ways to Help You Do More With What You Have


Perhaps we need to spend less time learning new tools and more time using them.” — Seth Godin

I Need More!

Pop quiz! Do you know these words?

“a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.”

Of course you do. We all use these words. But did you know that these are the only words used in the writing of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham? Yeah, this was news to me too. (Thanks Seth!).

If you were given that same list of words and asked to write a book, would you have been able to do it? Or would you ask to attend a writer’s workshop, or lobby for more words to use? When we aren’t sure how to do something, getting more training or asking for new tools is our easy path to procrastination. This happens with careers (get another degree or certification!), training (I took an advanced Excel class!), and many other areas. How often at work do you say, “If only I had a new…”?

Advanced degrees, training, learning conferences: these are all good and should be part of your professional development. They just shouldn’t be your first call for help when you have to solve problems at work. So today I’m going to discuss three ways you can solve a lot of challenges without having to do everything on your own.

  1. Your Toolbox

I work in the continuous improvement field. Know what questions my office gets asked the most?

“When will you be providing more training?” and “Are there any new tools?”

When confronted with a challenge in the workplace, many people default to getting more training or finding new tools. Have you tried to apply your own experience and tools first?

What we would love to hear more is, “I have a problem to solve. Which one of these tools I’ve trained on will best help me solve it?” The ability to accomplish work with the training and tools at hand is a challenge; one we face every day in the government sector. Taking time to get more training and learn more tools isn’t always the right way to go. Creative, practical use of your existing resources works, too. Keep it simple, get it done.

To simplify something means to have exactly the right amount of something. No more, no less.

  1. Ask A Friend

Recently we held our regular “CI Community of Practice.” A group of state, county, and local government staffers dedicated to, and passionate about, continuous improvement work: solving problems that change lives. We didn’t provide any new tools or training to the group. We facilitated discussions about specific challenges group members brought to the session. Many were solved right there, using the collective experience and knowledge in the room!

  1. Simple Search

If you don’t have a Community of Practice or a group of colleagues you can connect with to review workplace challenges, you still have options. Sector or industry sites, such as the one you’re a part of here on GovLoop.com are great resources. My ‘go to’ approach for quick advice?   Try searching the Internet. Really! I use Google as a search engine. The point here is that chances are, someone somewhere has already solved part or all of the same issue you’re facing.

Seth Godin published the quote at the beginning of this article almost four years ago. What might be different in the results of your work if you had spent less time looking for new training and tools, and more time using what you had?

Not sure how to use the continuous improvement tools you have? Let’s connect and see if we can help you simplify!

Joe Raasch is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.


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Laila Alawa

Definitely a great reminder to use what we have at our fingertips first – which I think is sometimes overlooked for the new + flashy. Thank you!

Louis Lani

At our office new employees are demanding more and more training that they know can not be denied or they will file an EEO or Discrimination complaint instead of just doing the job they were hired for based on their application and requesting training on a as needed basis. Is this just a sign of the times?

Joe Raasch

Hi Louis, good question: is it a sign of the times? That still doesn’t stop a manager from developing a good plan for the employee to utilize the new training on the job. I’ve found it surprising how quickly discerning staff can be when there is a project or expectations attached to the training event.

Janet Ryser

Do you have or is it possible to get the training materials, tools, etc. needed to present or hold a CI Community of Practice. Our state is once again undergoing budget cuts for the second time. We feel we have given all that we can. We need ideas, collaboration, etc. on using what we have “left over” which believe me is minimal. I was hoping this would be a positive session for us to see, if in fact we can dig deeper. Please let me know if this is available or possible what you could suggest for our team. We are Workforce Specialists in the Employment Sector of State Government. Thank You.

Joe Raasch

Hi Janet – sorry to hear about the budget challenges in your state. A community of practice could be just the low/no cost approach to get ideas and collaborate with like-minded staffers. Send a note to our office at [email protected] and we’ll get you the background and how we established and sustain our CI Community of Practice. Hang in there!