I co-led a conversation earlier today on the topic “Time Management: Tips & Tools for Managers Who Don’t Have Enough Time” with a team of plant managers. I had five ideas I wanted to foster conversation and teamwork around, and none of those ideas were complex or complicated. (I may share them with you at a later time.)
At one point in the conversation, one of the managers mentioned something along the lines of “It’s not rocket science – we just need to do a better job of practicing these things.”
My gut and head went in two different directions at that point.
My head told me I was wasting their time. Make it harder! Razzle-dazzle them! Throw in a bunch of statistics and graphs! Pull out a few five-syllable words!
My gut told me I had succeeded in what I had set out to do. They have a simple language they all understand and can use to support each other in applying the concepts in their day-to-day activities. Their heads are full of a bunch of other technical, hard-to-work-through stuff – they don’t need another complex or complicated idea. Luckily, my gut won today.
It’s not rocket science. That’s why it works. I learned this through a bit of education and a lot of trial by fire when I was a military leader and I’ve done my best to practice and teach it since then.
It reminds me of the line from Chapter 53 of the Tao Te Ching:
“The Tao is broad and plain
But people like the side paths”
We love those side paths. They’re interesting. They give us a convenient justification about why we didn’t just get it done. They let us play safe and small or not be responsible for the wake of our actions.
Then there’s Peter Drucker: “What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.”
Simple, effective ideas incorporated into a team’s everyday communication and practice lead to one of five things:
- clarity about requirements vs. capabilities
- conversations about priorities, focus, and accountability
- an examination of the systems and processes that are relevant to the work in question
- honest discussion about whether the team has the right mix of people
- great execution
Every manager wants great execution; few are willing to work through the foundations to get there.
Leadership isn’t rocket science, either. Inconvenient Business Truth #13: Simple Does Not Equal Easy.