How to simplify your business for better results
Originally published on Stuff Business at the beginning of June 2021, this article shows how "By adopting simplicity as part of your leadership framework, you can avoid adding more complexity to your employees’ lives."
OPINION: Overcomplicating things is a natural tendency for many business leaders. Executives and founders are usually intelligent, ambitious people. They don’t want to do less; they’re wired to do more.
In trying to do more, however, many can forget they’re not working alone. They’re working with human beings, and human beings generally deal better with simplicity than complexity.
The Four Disciplines of Execution, a well-known leadership framework, expands upon this idea by noting that tackling more than three goals results in lowered effectiveness and excellence overall. In other words, when you muddy the waters, you make it tougher on yourself – and the people around you.
Simplicity is more important than ever as the world has grown more complex over the past year. People have scrambled to adapt to new remote work situations, have worried about their health and the health of those they love, and have felt generally anxious about the future.
By adopting simplicity as part of your leadership framework, however, you can avoid adding more complexity to your employees’ lives and help everyone on your team – including yourself – avoid additional stressors that can lead to burnout. You can even open up more time and energy to focus on passions in life outside of work, like family and hobbies. Ultimately, simplicity creates a healthier work environment and a better balance that can keep teams motivated and successful.
With oversimplification, however, often comes misunderstanding and the potential for more errors. The key is getting each process to its simplest form without losing meaning and while ensuring your communication remains as clear as possible along the way. To do this, focus on simplifying these six key areas to see significant, measurable improvements:
1. Your company’s vision
It’s not possible to lead with simplicity until your employees know where the company’s going and how you plan to get there. Make sure everyone understands why your business was founded, who you serve, and what your objectives are. To start, I encourage you to answer the following eight questions. Share your answers in plain, easily digestible language with everyone in your business. Reevaluate the list quarterly to ensure it stays aligned with your direction.
What are the core values that guide how your business operates?
What is your core purpose or passion? In other words, why does the organisation exist?
What is your 10-year target? Your guiding compass?
Who is your target audience, and what makes you unique in their eyes?
What will your organisation look and feel like in three years?
What are the high-level goals you want to achieve in the next 12 months?
What priorities would you like to accomplish in the next 90 days?
What significant issues exist in your company that could prevent you from achieving any of those plans?
People make or break a business. But do you have the right people in the right seats?
2. Your organisation’s people
People make or break a business. But do you have the right people in the right seats? Conduct some due diligence to be sure your team shares your core values and each person is in the proper role.
Often, businesses grow and the requirements of the business change, but the people remain in the same positions and do the same functions. That’s neither simple nor productive.
It’s time to go back to basics. Forget about your existing team structure and design a corporate structure that will help you achieve the visionary goals discussed in key area number one. Once you have the corrected structure, you can start thinking about what type of talent belongs in each job function.
Ask your team which roles appeal to them: Would they change if they had the opportunity? Do they think they have the ability to fill a different role with the right training?
Double-check your findings with other leaders, especially if you consider moving someone, hiring new people or letting a longtime employee go. Though this can be a difficult step, it will pay off as it simplifies hierarchies and workflows.
Are the data points you use to measure the success of your business truly as telling as they should be?
3. Your business data
Are the data points you use to measure the success of your business truly as telling as they should be? Or are they merely historic or ego-driven?
Simplified data can help you narrow your focus on the right things. Imagine that you’re on a tropical island resort with no technology or outside contact. However, the resort manager is able to give you a sheet of paper with seven to 13 numbers from your business. Which data points would give you the best view into your company’s progress and overall success?
Your answer will reveal which data points are most important for your organisation. Begin recording the numbers weekly and using them to build a company scorecard.
All businesses have issues. The challenge for you is figuring out what your issues are so you can discuss them as a team.
4. Your corporate issues
All businesses have issues. The challenge for you is figuring out what your issues are so you can discuss them as a team. Unless and until you know your issues, you’re taking random jabs in the dark.
Of course, identifying issues requires that you acknowledge and accept them. Many leaders like to bury their heads. That just allows issues to go round and round in circles. Rather than spinning your wheels, make a point to name your issues and work towards solving them.
Bring together a diverse set of team members to brainstorm solutions. Make this a part of your weekly, quarterly and annual meetings. If you’re having trouble coming to resolutions, use structured lists and project management assignments to help.
5. Your organisational processes
Plenty of companies have massive standard operating procedures (SOPs) or manuals that document every workflow detail. Maybe you do, too. But how many of your people actually crack open the book and follow them?
You need a more simplified process. For instance, you might want to adopt the Pareto principle, or the 80:20 rule. Focus on structuring 20 per cent of processes in your organisation that will have an 80 per cent impact on the way your business runs. These could be processes from sales, marketing, operations, HR, or another department. Or you might want to ask each department to pinpoint the 20 per cent of its workflows that are most critical.
Once you’ve outlined your simplified workflow processes, ensure that people have easy access to them. Ask employees how they want to receive them, such as in a centralised database or as physical laminated materials. Give your refreshed SOP to workers exactly as they want it.
6. Your company’s traction
The best plans mean nothing without action and traction. As author Gino Wickman would say, “Vision without traction is hallucination.” To get that traction, make sure everyone in the company understands your quarterly priorities and follow a regular meeting pulse to keep things on track.
Plan to schedule two sets of meetings. The first is for leaders and happens every quarter, the second set is for teams or departments and happens weekly.
Plan to schedule two sets of meetings. The first is for leaders and happens every quarter. Executives, supervisors and managers will discuss what worked in the past quarter, set priorities for the coming quarter and resolve any outstanding issues.
The second set of meetings happens weekly. There, you’ll meet with your leaders. At the same time, the rest of your organisation’s departments and teams will meet, too. These meetings will all happen concurrently with set agendas aimed at gaining traction and getting results. These meetings should be brief and focused on moving the company forward towards its stated handful of priorities.
Leading a business has its challenges: people, profit, lack of control, hitting the ceiling. Why complicate matters when simplifying them can bring better results? At the end of every day, remind yourself that brilliance doesn’t lie in making chaos. It lies in moving towards simplicity.
Here is the original article on Stuff Business -https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/prosper/300319421/how-to-simplify-your-business-for-better-results