Rediscover The Pleasure Of Business Simplicity

Mike Stevenson / 16/01/2015/ No Comments

“The wise understand the complexity, but only the wisest find the simplicity” – a Buddhist saying that always resonates with me. How about this? ‘A PC on every desk and in every home.’ Microsoft’s founding vision. Audacious? Yes, but who’s laughing now. Then little over 16 years ago, Google set out its vision. ‘To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ Both companies were founded with clarity of purpose and internal cultures to drive their ambitious vision. Yet, I still hear talk here of ‘managing expectations’ and find hierarchies that inhibit staff from being the kind of creative force that can move organisations into that extraordinary zone. That smacks of the avoidance of failure rather than the pursuit of success. Imagine if a 10-year old Chris Hoy’s dream of becoming an Olympic Gold Medal cyclist had been tempered rather than supported?

Extraordinary organisations develop thriving cultures by involving staff and customers in creating ideas to inspire and drive the future. We know that a culture, which values, recognises, stimulates, stretches and rewards achieves more. Cynical management is too easy and corrosive. It seeps through in throwaway comments and knee jerk rules. I work with many businesses and public services – helping to achieve dramatic shifts in attitudes – that’s where it starts. It ends in improved performance, collective enthusiasm and a new driven energy. My first task is to get managers and staff to nominate and discard (ROOM 101 style) those words and phrases that sink the spirits, thwart enthusiasm and keep people in their place. “You are not paid to think’ is at the most ludicrous and belittling end of the spectrum. But, “That’s not your job” or “Send me an email with that request” are ubiquitous in the world of management speak.

“No Ball Games” – was the instant association made with a council logo, during an interactive session I ran with young pupils. The council was viewed as inhibiting rather than providing opportunities. However inadvertent, there are attitudes and words that reinforce people’s distance from decision making.

Does your organisation speak of a collective ambition? Will each member of staff talk enthusiastically about his or her contribution? Do your people live up to clear set of values or, are these simply a list of statements gathering dust somewhere in staff files? The New Economics Foundation lists five ways to wellbeing. Be Active, Connect, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. Aren’t these every person’s building blocks to fulfillment? Google and Innocent drinks shaped their cultures around these pillars – mature companies have to work a great deal harder to catch up because history can be a burden. Abandoning unhelpful attitudes and practices is never easy. But, don’t you want people to walk to work with a spring in their step and a smile on their face? Simplification can start today. Imagine you were to start with a blank sheet of paper – what would look, feel, sound and be different?

What characteristics do you want your staff to develop and how? Each of us is driven by a future in which we see ourselves as better and happier. How can you inspire your people to stay with a simple vision? As we search for ways to make more with less there’s never been a better time to rediscover the gold nugget of human energy that comes with feeling that your effort is key to your employers’ ambitions. When I work with clients I involve the whole organisation in defining a unique personality and setting out clear, ambitious and stretching goals – the words we use have an impact far greater than any management directive.

Great organisations encourage and support staff to keep learning and stretching – when I provide training I am always excited to see how ready people are to step up and reach beyond their ‘ken’. If 2015 is going to stand for anything I would love it to be the year in which organisations large and small don’t just say “Our staff are our greatest asset.” They positively involve people at all levels in defining and creating the future. I see the power of this shift daily and it fuels my enthusiasm for what I am doing. A storyboard Vision (business) Plan, policies on one sheet, a culture created and shared by everyone – ask a member of your staff how they describe their job to friends outside work. If they describe their role by what they do rather than the impact they make perhaps you are ready to be ‘Thinktasticked’

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