Why Simple Wins
How to get unstuck and focus on what matters.
By Lisa Bodell | February 14, 2023
Today’s most important resource is … time. Ask yourself: are you spending your time on things that really matter? For most of us, the answer is no. Each day, we spend hours drowning in ‘the work of work’—Meetings. Emails. Reports. Processes. What if we could spend our time on more valuable things?
Complexity is killing organizations’ ability to innovate and adapt, and simplicity is quickly becoming the competitive advantage of our time. To make simplification a common part of our work culture we need to consider the following:
Our role in creating complexity
In a recent Deloitte consulting study, 75 percent of respondents described their daily work as ‘complex’ or ‘very complex’. While complexity can result from things like increased regulations and global corporate structures, for most of us, complexity is created and experienced at the ground level. It’s meetings that are too long, with too many people invited ‘just in case’. It’s being copied on 100 emails. It’s gathering a little more data for a report no one needs. The bad news, therefore, is that much of our complexity is self-imposed and unnecessary. But the good news? A lot of it is in our sphere of control to eliminate.
Simplification is a competitive advantage
Many organizations have already recognized the chokehold that complexity puts on their ability to perform and are actively rolling out programs to eliminate it. Employees continually cite how meetings and emails consume the majority of their time, and leaders are finally enabling teams to say ‘enough’ to such unnecessary things.
- Netflix and Shopify have both put anti-meeting policies into place, with great results. Netflix claims to have decreased or eliminated almost 60 percent of their meetings.
- Google has made simplification a strategic imperative, enabling their teams more time to think and innovate vs. doing unproductive tasks. They are famous for their informal ‘cut the crap’ committees.
- Pfizer invited teams to kill ‘stupid’ rules and question assumptions around work processes that frustrated employees and decreased morale. The results have been incredible.
Simplification doesn’t just save money and time, it improves morale, retains employees and gives people the space to focus on innovative projects.
Activate simplification NOW
Simplification isn’t a pipe dream. For hundreds of organizations, it’s already a strategic imperative. Try these quick tips to get started:
- Go on a Time Diet: 30 is the new 60. Look at your meetings and see where you can experiment cutting back and paring down. This forces people to focus and not waste your most valuable asset: time.
- Eliminate Zombie Meetings: You know those recurring meetings that no longer serve a purpose or have outlived their time? Those are ‘zombie’ meetings. At the beginning of each year, delete all recurring ‘zombie’ meetings from the team calendar. This forces people to think about 1) is the meeting still necessary? 2) if so, how long does it really need to be? 3) who really needs to attend? and 4) could we reduce the frequency to be more efficient?
- Run a Work Hack: People on your team are already using workarounds for ill-thought out, one-size-fits-all processes – but they don’t share their hacks because …. they think they’re cheating. Ask people for their ideas to improve a process everyone hates – and learn how others already have ways to take steps out of the system that you’ll never miss when they’re gone.
As you consider what’s important for leaders and teams to embrace in 2023, add simplification to the agenda. You’ll be ensuring that your organization is not just productive, but full of energized teams that enjoy how they spend their time.
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Lisa Bodell is a globally recognized innovation leader and futurist. She is the founder and CEO of futurethink, which enables organizations to kill complexity, create space for innovation, and get to the work that matters. The author of Why Simple Wins and Kill the Company, she has appeared in publications such as Forbes, Business Week, the New York Times, and the Harvard Business Review. Bodell earned a business degree from the University of Michigan, and has taught innovation and creativity at both Fordham and American Universities.