Simplify, simplify, simplify


Henry David Thoreau : Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

John Rosling: Surely one “Simplify!” would have been enough ?

Almost all business owners and leaders have had the experience of being so firmly embedded in the day-to-day issues of running their business that it is difficult to find sufficient time to grow their business.

We can get stuck in the detail with the result that the single greatest impediment to the growth of our business can be ourselves. This is not a comment on skills or capabilities, simply a comment on the belief we have created that we have to manage everything because no one will do it as well as we do.

The challenge, if you ever want to have your business deliver what you originally set out to achieve, may be to find a new way of working. A way of working that really successful entrepreneurs who have built vast and complex businesses – but still seem to have time for fishing and long vacations (without checking their blackberry!) – have learnt to do instinctively.

You have to find a way of working that manages your business not in content but in context. Context is that which brings meaning. It provides a common language within the business process. It gives clarity to all the content and allows a business conversation to unfold, resulting in aligned decision making and understanding.

Imagine a conversation between three directors of a business. Let’s imagine the discussion is about fruit; which is the best fruit between apples, bananas and oranges. Without any context to give meaning to the word “best”, imagine how long that conversation could last and how much energy, management time and focus it could use up. Now imagine the same conversation if a clear context of “Vitamin C” was agreed. How long would the conversation have to last?

It is a simple analogy, but how many of us have the experience of management or team meetings where issues become muddled and decisions are difficult to reach. I find working with boards and teams that if they can set a clear context, decision making can be remarkably accelerated – and relationships improved. In fact, most problems in business stem from the fact that there is normally plenty of content, but

no context.

Context is the wood,

content the trees.

The context you choose to run your business is, of course, down to you and what you are seeking to achieve, but the best come from a formal process that allows you to find your context around one word. Just one. Simplify, remember?

Find that one word for your context and it will astonish you how much more easily decisions will be made in your business.

Easy? No. The most important things in life are rarely easy to achieve, and context (or the Why of a business) is only the starting point. From that starting point, leaders have to build into the business culture, intent, values and vision.

Those too then lead to much more to be done, but the key is that this all becomes more achievable when you manage in context rather than content, or, as one might say, “coach, don’t play”.