Many leaders spend their lives driving decisions, directing resources, and deploying people without the vantage point of substantial clarity.
If clarity is so beneficial, why do we find it in short supply with most leaders? Every leader must contend with clarity gaps and complexity factors. To make matters worse, the two biggest contributors to clarity and complexity in any organization are failure and success. But all is not lost; you can lead with consistent clarity.
Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better.
THE QUICK SUMMARY – Why Simple Wins, by Lisa Bodell
Imagine what you could do with the time you spend writing emails every day. Complexity is killing companies’ ability to innovate and adapt, and simplicity is fast becoming the competitive advantage of our time. Why Simple Wins helps leaders and their teams move beyond the feelings of frustration and futility that come with so much unproductive work in today’s corporate world to create a corporate culture where valuable, essential, meaningful work is the norm. By learning how to eliminate redundancies, communicate with clarity, and make simplification a habit, individuals and companies can begin to recognize which activities are time-sucks and which create lasting value. Lisa Bodell’s simplification method has several unique principles: Simplification is a skill that’s available to us all, yet very few leaders use it. Simplification is the right thing to do–for our customers, for our company, and for each other. Operating with simplification as our core business model will make it easier to be respectful of each other’s time. Simplification drives culture, and culture in turn drives employee engagement, customer relations, and overall productivity.
This book is inspired by Bodell’s passion for eliminating barriers to innovation and productivity. In it, she explains why change and innovation are so hard to achieve–and it’s not what you might expect. The reality is this: we spend our days drowning in mundane tasks like meetings, emails, and reports. These are often self-created complexities that prevent us from getting to the meaningful work that truly matters. Using simple stories and techniques, Why Simple Wins shows that by using simplicity as an operating principle, we can eliminate the busy work that puts a chokehold on us every day, and instead spend time on the work that we value.
A SIMPLE SOLUTION
Finding clarity requires navigating a tunnel of chaos, the point where deeper confusion and complexity are experienced first, before clarity can emerge. The tunnel of chaos make take hours, days, or months and it may involve much time in prayer, conversation, questioning, reflection, confession, and challenge, all with a spirit of relentless transparency.
The resolve to navigate this tunnel of chaos cannot be overestimated. The danger lies in the fact that there are two kings of simplicity. The first is meaningless simplicity, where the leader marches in place to a simplicity that is trite and valueless. Meaningless simplicity causes many leaders to give in and copy what someone else is doing.
On the other hand, getting to the other side of complexity finds you in a place of life redefined and rereleased. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Many leaders can get stuck in between, bogged down in complexity. These leaders don’t feel stuck, because they are living with a lot of good ministry – but it is good ministry that is the enemy of the best that the church ultimately can become.
It’s time to make simplicity clearer; and complexity too.
Something that’s properly simplified is:
As minimal as possible: Simple things reduce the number of steps, pages, features, functions, sign-offs, requirements, and other hurdles required to get something accomplished. There’s nothing extra, but at the same time, there’s enough to get the job done.
As understandable as possible: Simple things are defined by clear, straightforward language. They are comprehensible to someone who doesn’t already have expertise in the subject at hand. Simple things could easily be replicated by a novice – even if they often require some common sense.
As repeatable as possible: Simple things can be scaled or replicated. They aren’t one-offs. They aren’t customized. It should be easy for someone to do them over and over again.
As accessible as possible: Simple things are made available and transparent to as many audiences as possible. Outsiders can make use of them with as few gatekeepers as possible.
Complexity, then, is the lack of these four elements. It’s a process, product, communication, or procedure that isn’t minimal, understandable, repeatable, and accessible as possible.
Lisa Bodell, Why Simple Wins
A NEXT STEP
Albert Einstein believed that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And therein lies the problem that many organizations face when they remove too much information in the effort to make things simpler: the remaining information becomes useless.
The trick is striking an appropriate balance between details (complexity) on one hand, and the need to simplify on the other.
To help develop that balance, follow the outline below developed by Why Simple Wins author Lisa Bodell to help make simplification happen.
- Awareness – the journey to simplification begins with recognizing the toll taken by complexity. To help develop this awareness, choose a ministry event or activity that you feel has become complicated. On a chart tablet, list the name of the activity with your team, and then write down items that you team can identify that cause this complication.
- Identification – once aware of the complexity, write down items that your team can identify that cause this complication.
- Prioritization – use a “time versus value” equation to evaluate the opportunities you identified in the previous step. List which complications impede your progress the most, which problems will be hardest to eliminate, and those in which you can get the most traction toward simplifying.
- Execution – once the opportunities are identified, execute them by moving forward in real time.
- Habit Formation – simplification is never finished – it has to become a part of the way you operate
Gather your team and take 10 minutes to decide on one ministry or area that needs simplification. Next, using the above filters, spend 80 minutes discussing and then commit to three simplification steps in the next 14 days. Repeat throughout each ministry or program, as needed.
Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 74-1, issued September 2017.
Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader
Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.