Friday, January 09, 2009

Practical Simplicity

I am often asked to give practical tips that managers can follow to implement Simplicity. It's a brilliant question that challenges me because I guess anyone can say ‘lets simplify things’ but busy managers are looking for practical tips about what they can do personally to simplify the workplace.

Based on my own management experience there are numerous things managers can do and here are 9 for starters.

1 When you have written your next report ask two people who are paid significantly less than you to tell you if they understood it

2 Make time in your diary every week to ask a customer to tell you in their own words about their recent experience with your company

3 At your team meeting every week or every month depending on the frequency of meetings, ask someone to do a five minute presentation called “My big simplicity idea for our team is …..” (PowerPoint not allowed)

4 Invite a customer to read three e-mails or letters you have sent in the previous week and ask them to give you feedback about the language you used

5 Invite two 16 year old students to attend your team meeting and ask them to give the team members honest feedback at the end of the meeting about the language used

6 Find a report about absolutely anything of two sides of A4 length. Send the report to a colleague and ask him/her to return it to you reduced to one side of A4. Judge for yourself whether one side is adequate to get the message over

7 Ask one of your team members to write a story on one side of A4 about a complicated problem in your department/team. The language must be aimed at an audience of secondary school students (11-16 year olds). Send the story to a local school teacher and ask for feedback from the students at his/her school

8 In your next written report of more than 200 words do not use any acronyms

9 Send a report you have written to 2 cleaners and 2 junior Clerical staff. Ask the four of them to rate your report on a scale of 0 to 10.

0 I didn't understand it at all
10 I understood it completely

Think about how you can improve your score in your next report.

By the way, if you score 40 points congratulations you are a Simplicity guru.


Joel D Canfield said...

When I got serious about my song-writing, I learned really quickly the difference between asking my wife's opinion, and honest feedback ;) She, of course, loves everything I've written, especially since so many of my songs are about here.

Our daugher, though, isn't blinded by the same love, so she's fully capable of offering a real opinion. She does it kindly, politely, but honestly.

The lesson I've learned is to take note of who I'm asking, which tells me whether I'm looking for honest feedback or just a pat on the head.

Of course, in the workplace, you must have earned enormous trust for someone X number of pay levels below you to give honest feedback. Same goes for a customer.

Good stuff, Trevor. I like this list.

Anonymous said...


Much like Spinhead, I found the list to be useful as well. Seems like business used to be much more practical than it is today.

Why would leadership need to ask laypeople what their opinions of products and services really are, without recourse and scorn? If they don't, in these tough economic times, they're bound to find themselves extinct.

Much like the praise you've given to companies that produce excellent service and admirable results, I'm sure they understand your list of practical simplicity and success. All we really want as consumers are quality products and "simple" transactions. After that, bs begins to infiltrate the process.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Joel - I know the feeling.

It takes some courage to take feedback from people who tell you the unadulterated truth. One of my now best friends gave me some negative feedback once that really hurt me at the time. I soon realised he was absolutely right. I now consider him one of my most trusted advisers! No pain no gain I guess.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Scott – I hope you are well my friend. I’m constantly surprised how some like to make things complicated when the world cries out for simplicity. In my experience customers and front line staff want easy to understand and efficient systems that please or even delight them. For example when I visit an online purchasing website it is almost a religious experience for me when I see the simplicity of ordering. I love you reference to ‘bs’ – we see lots of that in management and business in the UK too I assure you.

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