SIMPLICITY AS RELIGION INDUCES STUPIDITY
by BRENT BURGOYNE
There is nothing quite like seeing a great principle applied well to lift the spirits – and the antithesis is also true: There is nothing quite as depressing as observing a principle mindlessly driven to its illogical conclusion.
Here’s what got up my nose yesterday: When people in a business setting take a principle that is, on the face of it, great, good common sense, and turn it into a religion, we know they are about to take a headlong dive into the shallow end of the pool.
To whit: I recently shared Radical Clarity, our beautiful (ands simple) interaction tool with a client, and they began to use it in the operating units they run in various countries across the continent to enable the pursuit of their ambitious objectives. Radical Clarity is a business process which facilitates the hard conversations in an organization. Along with everything else we design for clients, it is beautifully simple. And a tool of great power.
Here’s why it is needed: In organizations everywhere people do everything except the one essential – say what needs to be said. Whether because they are conflict averse, or because they cannot control their anger, or because they associate debate with conflict, or because their organization has a culture of burying difficult issues alive, things don’t get said, disagreements fester, and the downstream result is an inability to make accountability and ownership part of the organisational DNA.
But Radical Clarity cuts through all of that and people at the coalface in these operating units found increasing value in its application. (‘I took what you taught us and used Radical Clarity to resolve an issue we had been struggling to get agreement on for two months – and it took only ten minutes this morning,’ said one manager in Tunisia.)
All good – until someone with too much time on his hands – plus the need to find religion, decides to take the wrecking ball of ‘simplicity as religion’ to it.
The single most powerful enabler of business success is not the business plan, or the physical infrastructure, or the market (or any of these things …) – It is the ability of a group of people with a shared vision and a good product to go to market, to work as one, to achieve ambitious goals and feed that virtuous cycle. And this ability depends completely on how well these people engage – how well they deal with issues, solve complex problems, learn how to extract value in unusual places, and in general, ‘strike sparks off each other.’
The methodology we built to enable people to cut through the mess and get to Radical Clarity with each other to do this work is a tool of beautiful and elegant simplicity. It has seven (only seven!) working parts, each of which is an essential component to enable it to work its magic.
And then yesterday – and this is what stuck in my throat – a request came from the client to ‘simplify it.’ I almost choked on my ciabatta. Every one of the working parts of Radical Clarity does something important, and taken together, the tool generates exceptionally important results that, it seems to me, you can get in no other way.
Imagine getting this single most powerful enabler of business success working in your organization – which, in my couple-
I like simplicity too – and I will always go with Einstein’s putative injunction to ‘make everything as simple as possible – but no simpler.’
So yesterday I received yet another reminder that (a) if you do reductive thinking, you get, well … reductiveness, (b) a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and (c) the corollary, you cannot learn what you think you already know.
EXTRACTING THE NEXT PIECE OF VALUE
by BRENT BURGOYNE
We may have come to the limit of what can be achieved by better technology, more planning, more programs, more of what we regard as standard management stuff.
So where will the next value step-
What may take us to the next level in delivering on our promises to our shareholders, customers, partners and colleagues in our organizations is an enhanced sense of connectedness. Yes, connectedness.
And this could be connectedness with one another – across the hierarchy in the organization – plus connectedness with customers and partners that goes beyond what we may have done before. Almost wherever we work in organisations, we come across solid citizens in the organization, fully present in doing whatever they can to deliver value, who have a sense of disconnectedness with the organization, with the leadership and with colleagues in other functional areas beyond their own.
The sense of disconnectedness may also be because they either have not been exposed to the organization’s strategy, or because what they were exposed to was so high-
It may also be because the person they report to has problematic people skills and does more to alienate their direct reports then to bring them on board and engage them.
The net result of these kinds of problems is that people struggle to feel connected, and thus are less engaged than they could be. Creating a sense of connectedness, a sense of community in an organization, is a manifestation of a subtle and sophisticated leadership skill. It requires a level of consciousness on the part of the leader, who has done some work on herself (or himself).
This specimen of leader is open to the possibility that there is increased value to be extracted by a higher order and more evolved way of managing that goes beyond just holding more meetings and sending more emails.
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