Why We Need More Yesterwork Hunting

Sometimes, the real challenge lies not just in seeking innovation and growth, but in eliminating the outdated practices, or 'Yesterwork,' that hinder progress and productivity.

Julian Hochgesang L8D7H Auc Oc Q Unsplash

At the beginning of each budget year, business leaders tend to carefully draft a financial plan that’s often as absurd as their New Year's resolutions. We see the same combination of more and less. We aim for more turnover, more innovation, more bottom-line generation, and more agility.

But the 'less' part is often a lot more problematic.

In our current world of increased acceleration, we have to learn to switch, act and adapt faster and faster. The big question here is whether companies are bidding farewell to old routines and habits fast enough too.

Rotten wood

I absolutely love filling my free time with woodwork and carpentry. During Covid, for instance, I fixed all the stable doors of our farm: I took them down, removed and replaced the rotten wood, sanded them and repainted them. It's wonderful but challenging work. Slapping a new layer of paint on each door every year is a lot easier. But under those thickening layers, the wood then rots away.

Companies face that exact same problem: we are fascinated by innovation and everything that's new but forget to eliminate the old and the outdated. I call those obsolete processes and practices - that have a detrimental impact on efficiency and productivity - 'Yesterwork.'

My friend and nexxworks business partner Steven Van Belleghem often talks about 'friction hunting' in customer experience: finding all the annoyances, irritations, frictions, and discomfort that customers experience. If a company 'hunts' for these 'frictions' and eliminates them, it can drastically improve the customer experience.

It's time for companies to systematically hunt down 'Yesterwork' as well. Unfortunately, outdated processes and concepts from the past are still commonplace. With just one click on the flashy online portal of my health insurer, for instance, I can request a bunch of identification stickers which are then delivered to our home by a friendly postman. That’s Yesterwork in all its glory.


But Yesterwork not only has a negative impact on companies and their leaders. It also has a devastating effect on the psyche of employees. Anthropologist David Graeber used the term 'bullshit jobs' for that: jobs that even the people who perform them consider meaningless, unnecessary, or harmful.

But the true epicenter of Yesterwork is probably to be found in our governments. In my country Belgium, Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) was one of the most well known Secretary of States responsible for the simplification of the administration (2003–2007). He was the ultimate Kafka hunter, a fearless Yesterwork detective in our federal government. Unfortunately, he, and his successors, had too little impact. To the contrary, complexity often got worse.

I truly believe that it is time for companies to actively hunt down Yesterwork: cut out the rotting wood, and focus on innovation. Above all, I hope that Yesterwork will be taken into account in the new legislature, and that our new government will not just focus on digitization but also actively work on eliminating outdated and useless work.

'If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old,' said management consultant Peter Drucker. That is more relevant than ever.

If you're interested in learning more about Yesterwork or about The Never Normal, the impact of GenAI on our companies and how long-lived companies can keep transforming themselves to stay relevant, check out my keynote page.