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Sunday, 29 July 2018

Finding Life Too Complex? Harness the Power of Simplicity!

In the past few weeks I have had discussions with several members of my Vistage CEO peer group and listened to them bemoaning the complexity of running a business these days.

Information is so readily available that we can call upon it to substantiate any ideas that we might have or, on the other hand, use it to act in exactly the opposite way.

It is very tempting to collect as much information as we possibly can in order to justify a decision that we might make. The problem is that the very act of justification can take far too much time and not be all that productive in the end.

For example, I recall a previous member of the group who was very frustrated by his technical director, a committed engineer, who always seemed to need more information before making a decision. The consequence was that he very seldom made a decision.

We are surrounded by “stuff” that may be relevant but is frequently only peripheral in the decision making process.  Because of this urge to cut down the risk element in any decision, there is the danger that we can overdo the search for justification.

It is worthwhile asking a few questions such as:

  • What  is the likelihood of my being completely wrong?
  • What is the very worst that can happen if I do get this decision wrong?
  • What do I consider the odds to be that the decision will be correct?

The point is that even if we make a decision that goes belly up the possibility of the outcome being terminal for the business is probably negligible.  Certainly it could impact on the financial results or on the people in some way but what is the real level of importance?

My Key Executive group recently heard to our great delight a speaker from the US, Ark Rozental, who expatiated on the need to simplify the way that we design and run websites in order to increase traffic to the site.

It was a singularly enlightening session and because Ark analysed everyone’s site in detail using published Analytics he was able to show precisely how and where changes could be made.

This was substantiated by examples of other businesses who had done just that and had shown dramatic improvements.

The word is, of course, simplify.  In the end business is a simple exercise.  We either possess some knowledge or we make something, we add value and then sell it at a profit.  

That’s it, no more.  Everything other than that is merely devoted to specify details and that is precisely where if we are not careful complexity can take over. This can be to the detriment of the business and very often, the people.

Remember that a leader is NOT (or at least never should be) a doer.  The primary function of any leader is to be able to take time out to think about the business.

Ask yourself, who in the business actually spends time thinking about it?  Other members of the management team are fully engaged in the activities of the business, be it finance, operations, sales, marketing, IT and so on, in none of which should the leader be involved at least in detail.

The pity of it is that many leaders feel almost ashamed just to be thinking about the business which seems visibly to be doing nothing whereas it is probably the most productive effort that can be made for the future of the organisation.

I have recently written about using the One Topic Meeting and that can be the ultimate in simplification.  Have such a meeting, define the purpose of the meeting, what outcome is desired and head for it. Fifteen minutes or so can make sure that the meeting will be productive.

Life can be severely complex.  Harness the power of simplicity and watch positive things start to happen.

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