By Larry Taylor

(This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Simple is Sustainable)

Simple in no way implies dumbing it down. Or settling for less. Nor does it mean taking shortcuts, half-assing it, or compromising quality. Just the opposite.

“Simple” means uncomplicated, easily understood, and intuitive. 

“Sustainable” means able to consistently be implemented under pressure. 

Making a process “simple” is actually more difficult because it requires an infinite understanding of the complexity of the process and the strategic interaction of the various components. Paramount is the ability to reduce a process to the fewest elements to achieve the same or better outcomes than its complementary complex counterpart.

Legend has it Mark Twain wrote a letter to a friend.  “Please excuse the length of this letter. I did not have time to write you a short one.” 

Entrepreneurs don’t have sufficient time (nor desire) to read and process undisciplined “long letters.”  When I give an entrepreneur an insightful “short letter” plan it greatly increases the likelihood the process will be understood, implemented, and effective.  And most of all, sustainable. I am passionate about behavioral issues, how culture works, effective leadership, articulating a vision, achieving ownership of change, and various management principles and concepts.  Every year I spend hundreds of hours reading, observing, and researching my areas of passion.

A CEO running a billion-dollar business with 300 employees usually suffers from “time poverty.”   The CEO is focused (and should be) on running the business.  It would be overwhelming to also attempt to become an expert in my fields of expertise as well being an expert in the business being operated.

(I apologize.  I detest sports analogies, but I need to use one.)

Playing golf is the most complicated process in sports.  What the golfer does prior to striking the ball determines where the ball will go.  The golfer must perfect the stance, the pressure of the hands-on club, the path the club follows on the backswing, the turn of the hips and shoulders, head movement, and a multitude of other crucial elements.

Over-thinking how to strike the ball can cause debilitating stress.  If the golfer has to think about thirty elements of the golf swing, the golfer will freeze and never be able to execute the swing properly.  The world’s greatest golfers have swing coaches who understand and can identify the myriad swing components.  After working with the golfer, the role of the coach is to give the golfer a few “swing keys” that will bring the golfer’s entire swing together.

The goal is to eliminate the swing flaws and make the new swing repeatable under pressure.

Basically, the coach tells the golfer to focus on three or four elements of the swing and everything else will fall in line and the ball will be struck properly.  The mark of a great coach is to understand which three or four swing keys will make the entire swing work seamlessly for each individual golfer. 

My job as a consultant/coach is to be an expert in understanding the components of a process or procedure.  My role is to tell my client the three or four elements (swing keys) that will cause the entire process to fall into place and achieve the objective.

“Simple is Sustainable” is all about identifying and using “swing keys!”

The absolute power in the Simple process is “pressure.”

Pressure is when a decision must be made immediately, or when the boss is looking over your shoulder, or when the customer is staring you down. That’s when the power of the Simple process is actually released.

The power test for a sustainable tool or process is:

Can a person intuitively use the tool or process to make the best decision under pressure on a sustained basis?