3’s and 4’s…less… not more.
The last several posts I wrote about providing employees more information to encourage an emotional reaction to the performance of the business. This was a highly qualified definition of “more”. More information employees can really understand and contextualize.
Today I want to talk about communicating much less information, and why less is more… much more. Let me begin by saying I am a fan of the game of football. There are amazing parallels between football and business. On one hand, the game is amazingly complex. The rule book is 2 inches thick, there are hundreds of operating variables like health, weather, strategy, to name a few. Yet, one of the great coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, summed up the key to winning as “… running, passing, blocking and tackling. If we do those four things well, we’ll win more then we lose”.
What are the four absolutely non-negotiable fundamental performance measures in your business? Are they universally known, measured, pursued, and rewarded? Every month? If I walked through your offices and facilities and asked employees what they were, what kind of answer would I get?
Many in management seem to be enamored by quantity and complexity. I was recently in a conference room of a client and noticed a number of flip chart diagrams stuck to the wall from a prior meeting. Not only did these charts outlined over 30 different operating metrics, but there was an entire sectioned devoted to the methodology of communicating the charts. Charts of charts! I hope there was a lot of coffee available during that meeting.
I live in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and love history. I have always appreciated the wisdom of a quote from Thomas Jefferson. Late in life he wrote a lengthy letter to his friend John Adam’s. Near the end of he letter he said, “I apologize for the length of my letter, I did not have time to write a short one”. There is a valuable lesson in those words. Less can be so much more, then more.
There have been two definitive studies done on how many fundamental metrics a human is capable of effectively driving performance on. A Harvard study says four. The United States Marine Corp Officer Training School says three. In fact the entire Marine Corp is set up on the “Rule of Three”. In our 25 years of working with client companies, this has been proven over and over again.
Much like Roger, the CFO in a previous post, we would strongly recommend doing an audit of your information flow. MORE may be overwhelming the clarity and focus that LESS offers… if it is the right less.
Back to paragraph three. What are the 3 or 4 absolute performance measurements in your business that drive profitability? Are they universally known and understood? Is performance visually tracked real time? In football terms, does every team member know where the end zone is, how much time is left, and what the score is? Are people emotionally involved in the outcomes?
Employees must understand the big picture, the game at large, to fully understand their role on the team. This does not require quantity or complexity. It does require taking the time to write the “short letter”, and that may not be easy. However this discipline can have enormous impact on your organizations performance.