The Key to Big Business = Less

blog Mar 14, 2016

Remember that 80's t-shirt, "He who has the most toys when he dies wins"? No? Well, it was big. For a while, it seemed every 5th guy in New York was wearing one. Nothing wrong with toys. Toys R Fun! But the shirt turned out to be wrong and The Little Prince turned out to be right. Quelle surprise!

"Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. A most elegant business optimization theory, non?

It turns out that even in the case of highly complex things like multi-national operations, enterprise software and high-tech products, the one who has the most reductionist design wins.

Why? Because he who has the most whatever can't keep track of, manage, use or maintain lots of anything. The science is definitive. The big data has been crunched. The results are clear and simple:

1. The average human brain can only keep track of 7 things plus or minus two. Miller>

2. It takes us 5 seconds to absorb a new chunk of information. Simon>.

3. Our best attempts at managing complexity require:

a. decomposition-breaking it down into smaller parts

b. hierarchy - organizing the parts into related sub-parts

c. abstraction - squinting our eyes to focus mostly on the big things negating the details.

This is cumbersome, time-consuming and error prone and most business are suffering greatly from the excellent production of nothing due to the rapid proliferation of everything. So what's a leader to do?  Or gotta do, which is more like it for most of us.

Simplify, reduce, re-use, eliminate.

How much time and money do you invest in streamlining processes, systems and products? What's on your company's "stop-doing" list? Is simplifying the employee and customer experience part of your company's DNA? Really?

It's true that many things are hard or impossible to simplify. It's also true that most businesses are heaving under the weight of add-ons, redundant steps, skeletal process remains, and workarounds. Which of these are killing the opportunities before you? Which, when fixed, would yield the greatest business value in speed, quality, or talent and customer attraction? Maybe it's time to grab your team, go to the whiteboard, make a list and check it twice; then go one step further and prioritize it based on passion of ownership and feasibility relative to value. 

Question: Are you just reading this post for fun or distraction? Well, stop it! Close this blog right now and spend the next 20 minutes figuring out your first, second and third steps to making much more with way less.

C'est bon!

Barbara Shannon is a CEO coach and advisor to mid-market businesses. Her CEO peer groups, TheCEOBoard and ATHENA - The Peer Group for Exceptional Women Solopreneurs, provide high-performance direction, coaching and networking to a select collective of exceptional Bay Area business leaders. Barbara is a seeker of CEO clients who pair a holistic view of business, community, and family with a persistent drive for personal and professional growth.
If you're curious about Barbara's CEO groups or would like to inquire regarding elite private client service, please email [email protected]
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