Monday, October 1, 2012

Shooting for the moon...

Sim·ple [sim-puhl]  adjective, sim·pler, sim·plest, noun adjective

1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain: a simple style.
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned: a simple gown.
4. unaffected; unassuming; modest: a simple manner.
5. not complicated: a simple design

What happened to simple?  Why has simple become so difficult?

By simple I mean "easy to understand and deal with," as noted above.  Do you feel that your life -- business or personal -- is getting simpler:  easier to understand or less complex?  Bully for you if you do; you are in the minority.

But you know what?  It's been ever so.  Search for "simplicity quotes" and you''ll see exhortations, lamentations and admonitions going back centuries, even to the days of Leonardo da Vinci:  "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Simplicity doesn't mean not difficult, not challenging.  Consider JFK's famous challenge to the nation:
 "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."
Simple goal, no?  Devilishly difficult to execute? Absolutely, even with the unlimited resources of the government backing it.

But the mission was clear and compellingly communicated and it rallied the nation to the cause:
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. "
So how do we business owners keep things simple -- for customers, for employees and for ourselves -- when it seems that with each success, comes new choices, responsibilities and tasks to tackle?  It can all very quickly become overwhelming.

Just as one eats an elephant one bite at a time, the solution is to approach challenges by simplifying and prioritizing, by putting first things first, as Dr. Stephen Covey wrote in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

Complexity can kill your business by making it more difficult for others to take the action that you desire them to.  Simplify the tasks with a specific goal, clearly communicated and a simple process to accomplish it.

Ultimately, we achieved JFK's goal and landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon because the engineers and rocket scientists embraced the mission and broke down the challenges into priorities and processes.  They didn't make the objective easier, but simpler to execute.

“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.” — Oscar Wilde

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