Spring is almost here. It’s a season of renewal and revival. Around the house we do our “spring cleaning.” In the garden we prune plants after months of cold weather so they can put out strong fresh growth. Is it time to prune your business? Do you need to simplify operations, consolidate staff or pare back your product/service line?
Don’t Major on the Minors
“We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
He went on to add something that sounds almost like a Zen koan: “I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”
Proud of products not made?
Jobs apparently knew what one hand clapping sounds like. If you have a fairly extensive product line or menu of services, take a fresh look at it with a very critical eye. Consider if resources spent on the slowest moving or less profitable products or services could be invested in the items that bring you the greatest return.
Or maybe there’s a new opportunity waiting for you and you just need to make a clean break with part of your history to really take advantage of it. As Jobs said, a major part of focus is getting the things you shouldn’t be doing out of your field of vision.
Diversification can be dilution.
‘Less’ is More Difficult
Describing the way Apple was built, Jobs said this:
“The organization is clean and simple to understand, and very accountable. Everything just got simpler. That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Take a look at your company’s organizational chart. In recent years has it gotten cleaner and simpler, or more complex? The natural evolution of organizations is to grow increasingly complex. In larger companies that process continues until it becomes obvious to high level management that the organization is no longer effective.
At that point a “fixer” is sent in who greatly simplifies and streamlines the operation. Don’t wait until you’re in trouble. Find those places where there is a lack of clarity in your organization. Are there areas of shared or overlapping responsibility? Clean those up.
Is there anything in your business that is “everyone’s responsibility”? Whenever that happens, people are kidding themselves. Things that are everyone’s responsibility become in fact, no one’s responsibility.
I’ll leave you with one more take on these principles from the master:
“And it comes from saying no to a thousand things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
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