Keep It Simple

For some unknown reason, business people continually try to make things more complicated and complex than they need to. When it comes right down to it, business is not all that complicated. A business exists to make a profit. To do so, a company must offer a product or service that has appeal within a market or set of markets, it must hire good people, it must market its product or service effectively, it must control expenses and it must provide high levels of customer service.

But something happens in many businesses along the path to success (or failure). The people responsible for running the business begin to make their lives and others’ lives difficult by adding levels of complexity that often don’t need to exist. Most of this is a result of poor planning and implementation and a lack of adequate management skills.

In every facet of a business, it is wise to constantly think in terms of how things can be kept simple. Processes should be as simple as possible. When processes become unduly complex, communication breaks down, mistakes occur and customer service suffers. Communication should be kept very simple as well. The more words that are used in communicating, the greater the chance of miscommunicating. It is important to provide enough details to clearly communicate what it is you want to get across, but do so in a concise, straightforward manner.

When dealing with problems whether they are operational in nature or related to employee performance, avoid the tendency to make more out of the problem than is really there. In other words, stay away from making things appear worse than they are. Taking a “sky is falling” approach to problems simply encourages havoc and chaos that often clouds the ability to resolve the problem. It is important to stay calm, think rationally and positively and to remain optimistic. Work through the issues methodically and work toward a solution. Effective managers are adept at keeping their emotions in check and not allowing negativity to creep into their thinking.

Using common sense in resolving business issues is critical. Most business issues and challenges can be dealt with by using simple common sense and keeping things in the proper perspective. Managers who possess a high level of common sense tend to be more successful because they apply sound reasoning and logic to getting things done. Those who try to apply a lot of theory to getting things done often find it difficult to move beyond the theory and into practice. In other words they tend to get caught up in deriving complex models for getting things done when a relatively simple approach would suffice.

We often refer to blocking and tackling when it comes to business success. Blocking and tackling represents the fundamental business practices that must be in place to be successful. We also break businesses down into four fundamentally simple, but broad categories:
1) people
2) strategy
3) processes
4) culture

We believe that managers must deal with these four variables effectively to create a successful business and create value in the business. This approach also allows businesses to focus on four relatively straightforward areas and encourages simplicity in planning and management. Knowing that these four variables must be affected to be successful is a big first step in getting to a simple, logical approach to managing a business. Why? Because it brings focus to what needs to be dealt with.

Sure there are a number of sub-variables within each of these broader categories, but most businesses fail to compartmentalize their businesses in a way that makes sense. Management should look at these four variables and begin by asking these simple questions:
1) do we have the right people in the right jobs?
2) do we have the right strategies defined?
3) are our processes as simple and efficient as possible?
4) do we have a high morale, customer-driven culture?

In most organizations, the answer will be “no” to one or more of these questions if management is willing to be honest and objective in assessing the situation. A “no” answer is a call to action. A simple, but well defined plan of attack needs to be assembled to deal with deficiencies that might exist.

Maintaining simplicity in business whenever possible is important. Is your approach logical and based on common sense? Are your daily processes and procedures simple and efficient? If not, take a look at how you might simplify your business and, therefore, your life.