Why your business needs to double-down on simple

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When people are baffled, disconnected, & not on the same page it’s really hard to make things happen.

One of the most common frustrations we hear from top executives is frustration at the lack of alignment inside the company. The complaint we hear most often is the feeling that only a few people at the top understand the company’s vision and the rest don’t seem to get it.

We often find the same level frustration from the rank and file within the company but the complaints are different. Those outside of the C-suite complain there either isn’t a clear definition of the vision, or it is vague, tactical or buried inside a horrific mission statement so bland even the author cannot remember writing it. These complaints are clues there has not been an effective translation of the company’s big picture trajectory to those who need to understand, embrace and act upon it.

It doesn’t require an MBA to see a serious problem with this disconnect. How can a company progress towards a target when most people don’t understand what the target is? How can a misunderstood company vision help people in the company prioritize, make decisions, and pool their energy towards anything? When people are baffled, disconnected & not on the same page it’s really hard to make things happen.

We say “vision” for a reason, we say it because what motivates most of us is something we see and feel at a real basic level. Even if the vision is a complex concept, we still internalize that concept in some kind of tangible way…for example one of the most successful and widely used project management tools in the world was developed by BASECAMP who describe what they are about in terms that are very hard to miss for anyone inside or outside of their organization:

“(We are) doubling down on simple. We’re big believers in the power of keeping it simple. Every bet we’ve ever placed on making something easier for our customers has always paid off. In the decades to come, we’ll continue to make big bets on simplicity, clarity, ease-of-use, and honesty. This goes for our products, our publications, and our company.”

Is there any doubt what these guys value? Is there any doubt about how they measure success? My guess is any employee at Basecamp knows they succeed when they make things simpler and easier for their customer and anything that doesn’t falls short. How hard is it to understand this?

Basecamp is a very complex company, they make software and manage a service with a high degree of technical complexity yet they articulate their vision in the most simple, tangible, and direct way. And based on the hockey stick level of growth they have achieved this approach is about business effectiveness not a trivial dumbing down exercise. They attribute their phenomenal success to making everything simple…including the answer to the question: what are you guys about?

How about your company? How long does it take for everyone in and outside of your company to get why you are here? Does it take an hour to explain your company’s vision? Do you have to pull something out of a file cabinet to jog your memory? If you asked 10 people in your company where this company is going and why, would you get different 10 answers? If you cannot articulate your vision in a way that can be seen, felt and understood in the simplest terms I suggest making distillation a top priority. The reasons to distill a simple compelling vision for your company are usually the same reasons most of us start businesses in the first place; to be a clear compelling place for people to want to work and customers to want to buy from.

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