How do I keep my business simple and focussed?

October 7, 2014

Consider these simple points:

Businesses are constantly talking about new initiatives, re-organisations and rebranding. But does the workforce know where it fits it or plays its part? Do these changes keep things simple or allow staff to focus on what is important? Are people keeping up with the constant changes coming from management?


IT systems and technology are revolutionary for business, increasing our efficiency and speeding up processes in ways we might never have imagined. But is all this data actually bogging us down? Although we may not be chained to our desks at all hours, our smartphones connect us to our emails, making us contactable at all hours. Social media has brought a whole new meaning to the term networking, but has it also blurred the lines between your private life and work life. Now that emails can be sent from anywhere and the power of tweets cannot be underestimated, professional life and actions within have been met with new realms of complexity – not simple at all.

Here is a great quote from a Bain & Company consultant, ” it is a truism that from the first product sold by the founder to his first customer, the complexity of most businesses grows exponentially, drawing senior management farther and farther away from the front line.”

The path to a more simple business

My belief is that complexity is not good for business – people can’t understand what is going on. There’s too much inertia in a complex business to make it respond to change fast enough. Here are a few simple ideas that might start a business on the path to a less complex life:

invite the entire workforce to build a shared vision of where the business is going.  This might sound impossible or naive or both.  But consider the effort you, as the leader, would have to to put in to get buy-in to an idea that your management team came up with. My regular readers will recognise this is a constant theme from me. But it works. Check out the quote from Steve Woodford of Foundation, in Building a shared Business Vision, on my case studies page. 

limit the business to no more than 3 significant strategic initiatives in a year.  These could be a new product launch, an office move or implementing a new computer system.  If there is one thing a business should focus on, it’s Focus – as described in The Outstanding Organisation by Karen Martin.  Limiting yourself to 3 initiatives needs disciplined prioritisation and debate – but it’s worth it.

show progress on those initiatives and other key measures on view in the business – some sort of dashboard.  Have regular short staff meetings at the dashboard to review progress and update on changes. These meetings maintain focus for everybody yet allow changes in plan to get shared and put into action.  Try it, it works.

So try out these ideas, talk to your managers or staff and get their input to how to make these ideas work for you.