Posts Tagged ‘simplicity’

You might find this hard to believe, but SIMPLICITY is actually a key principle of military strategy and tactics. Complication increases the probability of friction, and friction increases the chances of failure, or massive confusion.

How do you know you’ve achieved simplicity? Simple: People can readily explain things back to you in their own words without error or misunderstanding. Whether it’s your overall intent, vision, mission, or detailed plans, ALL of your employees should be able to respond to the questions, “What are we doing here and what is your part in it? What happens if you can’t fulfill your part of the plan?” In business terms, this also includes the ability to quickly articulate how the client is better off by buying your products or services or doing business with you.

Here are some quick tips to keep things simple:

  • Give people your overall intent and tell them WHAT you would like them to contribute and WHY it’s important.
  • Let them figure out the best WAY to achieve their tasks and outcomes.
  • Focus on outcomes, not inputs.
  • Follow the rule of three: Only rarely should you give more than three major tasks or outcomes to someone. Limit their span of responsibility and control to three subordinates.
  • Break complex plans and tasks into smaller pieces and assign them to separate teams and leaders. Apply the rule of three.
  • Assign clear lines of authority and responsibility. Ensure people are accountable.
  • Assign major resources to teams and leaders but let them figure out and coordinate the details.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

Of all the success principles I’ve described, this is probably my favourite. Why? Because we often like to complicate our lives, our plans, our businesses. Things get complicated and complex enough without exacerbating the problem. Military strategists and tacticians talk about ‘friction,’ which is the complication and complexity that arises naturally in any collective undertaking requiring more than one action.

Plans get muddled, assumptions prove incorrect, communications break down, and units get lost, just to name a few of the signs of friction. The same can apply in business, where just because you’ve issued your plans and direction, it does not necessarily follow that they will be executed to perfection. What are some of the ways to ensure simplicity in order to counter friction?

  • Have a clear vision and mission, with a clear hierarchy of goals and objectives.
  • Create clear lines of responsibility and accountability.
  • Ensure unity of command, that each person takes direction from only one superior, and not many.
  • To quote Albert Einstein, “Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.” In other words, don’t overdo it on the simplicity side.
  • Eschew multitasking. Try to do one thing at a time, but do it well.

These are just some of the ways to build simplicity. Remember that if you have a hard time understanding your plans, there’s a good chance that others will too.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.