Let me share with you my 3Ss, where I suggest you put your money:
1. Synthesis. My followers, readers, clients, know that I keep coming back to this. We have populated our organizations with Super Analytical Tribes that are able to dissect an elephant into many pieces and create beautiful PhDs, Strategic Planning and Competitor Analyses of legs, trunks, tusks, ears etc. We’ve got competitive skills based on these specialised abilities: ‘My trunk experts are the best in the industry’, ‘this is the place that attracts the top tusk specialists’, etc. However, we need people who are able to see an elephant when they have an elephant before them. Perhaps shout: ‘Psst! It’s an elephant!’ Then we also need people who can reconstruct the elephant once the Dissectors (not Directors) have done their job.
2. Sense: Inundated with information, data, options, and the complexity of business life, organizations and their leaders have progressive difficulties in distinguishing between noise and signal. Sometimes, everything looks like a priority. Everything seems to make sense (but it doesn’t). Choices are difficult to make. Our ‘prioritizing’ tools are primitive. Huge brainstorms are often followed by a reductionist approach that ends up focusing on doing what is doable, under our control and looks like providing immediate benefit: quick wins. However, what may make real sense is to focus on what seems not doable, things we can’t fully control and for which the benefits are yet to be defined. The key is, what has been left out. Making sense of it all, above and beyond the apparent pseudo-logic of the priority setting exercise, is a skill in short supply. Sense making, sound judgement, identifying the signal, please bring them all. Don’t stop the prioritization and brainstorming but remember the brain attached to the storm.
3. Simplicity. Simplicity does not mean reducing something complex to digestible pieces (the elephant above), but more so, it means decluttering processes, systems and procedures. It’s about being mindful of the overgrown garden that nobody seems to tidy up; the overgrown grass and shrubs that everybody seems to be happy about. Simplicity can coexist with complex business provided that the complexity has been decluttered and the unnecessary removed. In our corporate world, simplicity is often understood as reductionism: the bullet points, the executive summary, the elevator pitch. These things make us feel good but may not solve complexity. Indeed, we may be fooled by the ‘reduced amount of information’ and by the pristine, reduced ‘summary’.
Most of these 3Ss can be found somewhere in my previous books, particularly ‘New Leaders Wanted, Now Hiring’. The topics come back to me again and again.
The 3Ss are still largely unresolved although we kid ourselves that we have: elephant cutting, post-it prioritizing, executive summaries.
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