Articles From Lisa Bodell View Profile

Share this Article
  • The Competitive Advantage Of Simplification: 14 easy ways to harness it

    Lisa Bodell, The Competitive Advantage Of Simplification: 14 easy ways to harness it

    The Competitive Advantage Of Simplification: 14 easy ways to harness it
    by: Lisa Bodell

    Years ago, Southwest Airlines placed a bet on simplicity. While other airlines flew a variety of aircraft models, Southwest chose to build its fleet around a single model of plane, the Boeing 737. If one plane couldn’t make it to a destination on time because of a storm or maintenance issue, another plane could take its place, keeping the airline on time and saving it money.
     
    Simplification made the airline easier to run, more flexible, and better able to meet the needs of customers—and Southwest isn’t the only transportation company to harness the power of simplicity. In 2013, General Motors consolidated and simplified its brand lineup, dropping its Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer divisions. The elimination brought real benefits, helping the company save as many as 1.2 million jobs.

    While GM and Southwest are examples of operational and brand simplicity, any simplification tactic that makes a company nimbler, more efficient, and faster gives it a competitive edge. The company that can quickly adapt to new conditions wins—and it’s easier to adapt when teams aren’t hindered by unproductive (and often unnecessary) meetings, e-mails, tests, approvals, and reports.
     
    Through my innovation work at futurethink (and research for my new simplification book), I’ve identified proven ways to jumpstart simplicity. Of the following fourteen tactics, which ones address the biggest time-sucks or employee pain points in your organization?
     
    1. Eliminate 1 current activity before adding a new one. This golden rule of simplification emphasizes respect of employees’ time and thoughtful examination of existing responsibilities.
     
    2. Empower direct reports with decision-making. Charge each person on your team to make 2 decisions this week without you. At your next status meeting, discuss which decisions they made on their own. Expand this behavior to 3, 5, and 10+ decisions per week, and tie decision-making to individual performance or to a simplification metric for your department.
     
    3. Reward employees for identifying redundancies and red tape. While positive reinforcement isn’t a new concept, it’s been proven to spread the value of simplification across organizations. Publicly reward employees who make a successful case for killing a project, task, or policy.
     
    4. Conduct annual meeting audits. After several divisions at U.S. telecom provider Sprint reviewed every meeting it held in one year—from standing and weekly status meetings to events, off-sites, and team gatherings—the company eliminated 30% of them. Direct team leaders to conduct their own meeting audit and cancel every meeting that doesn’t add value or has outlived its original objective.
     
    5. Equip managers with outcome-focused solutions. Train managers to resolve gripe sessions by asking “What do you hope to achieve through this dialog?” This tactic redirects a conversation from “My colleague always gets first choice when choosing holidays” to “I want to pin down my summer vacation, and I need you to review my request this week so I can plan my trip.” When managers guide employees to phrase their complaints as wishes, an issue like “I hate the new hire process” becomes “I wish the new hire process included only 1 level of approval and could be done in 3 days or less.”
     
    6. Redesign your travel policy for convenience. Travel policies are a pain point for many of today’s employees. Pharmaceutical company Novartis provided its business-traveling employees with more flexibility on hotel price and location by adding 40 hotel chains to its travel policy.
     
    7. Establish unlimited vacation. The delivery service Deliv reduced the number of HR and senior staff hours spent managing vacation days by eliminating the policy altogether. If time off affects a particular employee’s performance or work quality, empower managers to adjust policy for that individual.
     
    8. Identify irrelevant reports. Is your department contributing to valuable reports or have some of them outlived their usefulness? Is duplicate information already compiled by another division? Analyze all the reports to which your team contributes for opportunities to streamline or eliminate.
     
    9. Kill stupid rules. When HBO conducted this exercise for the first time, more than 100 stupid rules were identified and eliminated to free up time and reduce bottlenecking. Through a Google Doc, the group continued suggesting more stupid rules to kill and other parts of the organization adopted the practice. Rule-killing spread organically throughout the company and is now a best practice.
     
    10. Define employee roles by outcomes, not tasks. Task-based job descriptions focus on processes, not results, so redefine roles in your organization for outcome-focused measures of success. For example, “write 3-5 press releases per month” could become “generate 20+ press mentions per month.” This approach shifts the focus from “how” to “what.” It flexes employees’ creative problem-solving muscles and empowers them to concentrate on what actually matters: results.
     
    11. Start meetings with goals...and end with action items. Require that every meeting agenda includes the meeting’s goal and is sent to invitees in advance. Similarly, require that next steps be defined at the meeting’s conclusion.
     
    12. Institute email-free time zones. UK-based multimedia production company Ten Alps banned morning emails so employees could allocate time for ideating and imagining instead of inboxing.
     
    13. Utilize NNTR. For email topics that are FYI and don’t require a response, type NNTR (No Need To Respond) in the subject line. By utilizing this tactic, a business unit at Merck reduced email volume within its group by 20%.
     
    14. Eliminate traditional performance reviews. Professional services company Accenture did away with performance reviews in 2015. Instead of relegating feedback to a once-a-year exercise, managers now provide employees with feedback on assignments as needed throughout the year. By providing reviews in real-time—instead of trying to recall mistakes or successes from 10 months ago—these check-ins enable managers to identify and resolve performance issues in a timely manner. And by removing the anxiety and formality associated with annual reviews, the feedback itself can become less threatening and more supportive to employees.
     
    Making simplicity part of how employees operate every day is key for your company’s success—both financially and culturally. A recent Siegel+Gale study revealed that employees in simplified work environments are 30% more likely to stay at their jobs. Why? Because their time is spent on high-value work instead of endless meetings, reports, and emails. From lower employee turnover and better morale to less busywork and red tape, simplification offers opportunities to achieve a competitive advantage in every corner of your business.

    For more on futurist speaker and woman in business Lisa Bodell, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.

Share this Article
X

FIND A SPEAKER

TESTIMONIALS

Testimonials
  • "I wanted to share with you feedback of my experience in working with Executive Speakers Bureau.. Very responsive and detail oriented.  When I wa...
    Amdocs
  • Angela, you & your team have my endorsement for making Memphis events successful. People should use you to plan their next event.
  • "As I mentioned before, your engagement model was incredibly easy to work with, and I know we came to you on short notice!  I would highly recomm...
    Capitol One
  • Thanks to Richard and Jo for all the coordination. Another homerun from Executive Speakers Bureau!  
    Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • "Thank you so much for all your help in putting this together on such short notice. I will definitely use your services again in the future."
    Applied Materials
  • I want to thank you for all of your assistance you and Jenny were wonderful. If it had not been for you sending me suggestions I would not have found ...
    West Virginia Tourism
  • Thank you to both of you for everything surrounding Mr. Will as our special guest. I suspect, soon, I will be in touch regarding our next event. 
    Oxford Financial
  • Thanks to you, Jo and the rest of your team.  You are the BEST.  Knowing you are behind a speaker allows us the luxury of concentrating on o...
    Ohio Hospital Association
  • You ladies really are the BEST!  After this event I am going to be on the hunt for keynote speakers in May.  I really want to work with you ...
    ICMI
  • "My entire team has enjoyed the experience of working with you and ESB more than words can express. Everything was handled in a professional and timel...
    Cregger Company
  • "I want to thank you for helping with our Principals Day event. Marshall Goldsmith was excellent. Not only is Marshall the consummate professional, be...
    Burns & McDonnell
  • Everything went really well and we really enjoyed having Jack Uldrich as our speaker!  He was entertaining and funny and provided great examples....
    Novo Nordisk
  • We truly appreciate the excellent support and attention to detail we have received from Executive Speakers Bureau.  They have provided us with so...
    IBM
  • As always, you deliver excellent service. Thanks!
    Camden National Bank
  • "Thanks to you and Jo for all your efforts.  Connie Podesta and Roger Dow were great!"   
    National Apartment Association
  • "Everyone loved Bob and he was so nice on site. Thank you for all you did. The process was so easy and we will definitely work with you again next yea...
    NBC
  • The Nebraska Hospital Association along with numerous other state hospital associations have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Executive Speak...
    The Nebraska Hospital Association
  • "I appreciate your recommendations.  In addition, you are always a pleasure to work with and understand the pains of an over worked meeting plann...
    Milliman
  • "We loved our speakers. Thanks to you and your team for your outstanding service and thank you for your patience!"

    National Association of the Blind
  • Bridgeworks was awesome!!! Great feedback from all!! Thanks for all of your collaboration and positive we'll use you in the future.  
    Johnson & Johnson
  • "My mind was very much at ease knowing that Jack Uldrich was so well prepped.  I will definitely use your agency again."  
    EAIE
  • We could not have done it without you.  Thank you for the outstanding suggestions.  The speakers were by far the best we have ever had.
    FedEx
  • I’ve used the services of a number of speakers bureaus in the past. However, my current experience working with the Executive Speakers Bureau ha...
    Intel
  • Our bank has held an annual business and economic conference for the past 9 years.  We have worked with Executive Speakers every year and I have ...
    First Midwest Bank
  • "You made my job so much easier! You are the only bureau I will use."     
    Sigma Systems
  • "OMG Richard! As always you make me look like a rock star. Every single speaker we selected hit it out of the park. Thank you again. Can't even say wh...
    Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn.
  • "WOW, is all I have to say and thank you!  Our event was a huge success and you never steer me wrong, both David Cottrell and Ryan Estis were exc...
    ICMI
  • "We not only went 3 for 3 but I'd say they were all home runs! Thanks for your help on the speakers. It was a key and very positive component of our c...
    Chem-Dry
  • "Let me just say again, what a pleasure it is to work with you and ESB. You really make it harder for others to reach the bar."
    ASTD
  • The event was EASY Cake! and it went over very very well.  Thank you so much for the help and organization, it made my life very easy. 
    Boys & Girls Club
  • “Thank you guys it was a pleasure working with you.... You made the whole process easy. Thanks again”
    CableNation
  • "I will be sure that all involved know what a wonderful resource you have been. The universe smiled on me when I discovered Executive Speakers and you...
    Ocala Eye
  • "Richard, Your ability to put me in front of just the right group again and again, is nothing short of amazing. You work your tail off, you sweat the ...
    Alan Hobson
  • "I LOVE this list that you sent me! I emailed several different places on Tuesday an...
    CoreLogic
  • "Your tenacity and persistence in staying in touch with us is a model example of good salesmanship and partnering.  I will be using you as an exa...
    Schneider Electric
  • "The group that I work with to obtain all of my keynote speakers is Executive Speakers Bureau and I can tell you that I don’t like working with ...
    Indiana Youth Institute
  • Mr. Schelp you are a Rock Star! Thank you!!!  Deal #7 is done and more to come!
Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Call us to discuss how we can help find the right speaker for your organization.

Get Ideas in 2 Hours or Less

Please fill in information below

Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.


Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM