From Davis Balestracci -- Resolution for 2016: Simplify.

Published: Mon, 01/18/16

From Davis Balestracci -- Resolution for 2016:  Simplify
[~890 words:  take 3.5 to 5 minutes to read over a break or lunch]

To read on-line:

"To obtain a diploma requires the storage of trivia.
To obtain the Great Integrity [Tao] requires their abandonment.

"The more we are released from vested fragments of knowledge,
the less we are compelled to take vested actions,
until all is done without doing.

"When the ego interferes in the rhythms of process,
there is so much doing!
But nothing is done." -- Tao te Ching #48 (Ralph Alan Dale's translation)

The Age of Excess Everything

Hi, Folks,
Best wishes to you for a fulfilling 2016!

As I was preparing this newsletter, one of my resources referred to chapter 48 of the 2500-year-old Tao te Ching (above), which, as some of you know, is one of my favorite sources of wisdom.  It really tied today's message together and I hope you can apply its wisdom to your improvement efforts.

Restating its major point:

        To attain knowledge, add things every day.
        To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.

Matthew E. May has published a very thought-provoking article whose points I would like to share as you settle into your post-holiday work rhythm. 

“The world is more overwhelming than ever before. Our work is deeper and more demanding than ever. Our businesses are more complicated and difficult to manage than ever. Our economy is more uncertain than ever. Our resources are scarcer than ever. There is endless choice and feature overkill in all but the best experiences. Everybody knows everything about us. The simple life is a thing of the past. Everywhere, there's too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the right. The noise is deafening, the signal weak. Everything is too complicated and time-sucking.”    Matthew E. May

May came up with his Law of Subtraction:  The art of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly . . . or the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place.

From this, he further developed six laws using John Meada's 10th law:  "Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful."

  • Law #1: What Isn't There Can Often Trump What Is
  • Law #2: The Simplest Rules Create the Most Effective Experience
  • Law #3: Limiting Information Engages the Imagination
  • Law #4: Creativity Thrives Under Intelligent Constraints
  • Law #5: Break Is the Important Part of Breakthrough
  • Law #6: Doing Something Isn't Always Better Than Doing Nothing

Coincidentally, exactly one year ago, I addressed all of this in a different context in a newsletter titled:  "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!"

Bob Emiliani's excellent blog "Lean Overproduction" also makes these points and addresses the current problem of "too much information."

May's 10 "brutal, even ruthless" questions

May says to take a break from a natural human bias for action.  He gives what he calls 10 "brutal, even ruthless" questions that must be considered en masse to refrain from a typical beginning-of-year blind gung-ho charge to change one's world.  Answer honestly:

  1. What’s really driving your need for change?
  2. What new aspirations guide your goals?
  3. What truth is not being addressed?
  4. What do you need to understand better?
  5. What new ways of thinking and acting are needed to support this change?
  6. How will you facilitate the development of these new behaviors?
  7. To what degree do you truly understand and own the change process?
  8. What are major learning objectives that support your change effort?
  9. What new perceptions, values, and experiences will be critical to your success?
  10. What is the most positive way in which you can proceed?

Only 50 of you took a look at this outstanding checklist of 40 questions on change by Torben Rick from my last newsletter.  Please reconsider and maybe even print it out.  These may even be more brutal than May's questions!

Need a guide to get started in all this?  Chapters 3 and 4 of Data Sanity address all of this.

You are indeed a leader!

John Heider's book The Tao of Leadership takes each chapter of the original Tao te Ching and brilliantly adapts it to a context of becoming a truly great leader.  Here is his version of #48:

# 48 Unclutter Your Mind

Beginners acquire new theories and techniques until their minds are cluttered with options.
Advanced students forget their many options. 
They allow the theories and techniques that they have learned to recede into the background.

Learn to unclutter your mind.
Learn to simplify your work.

As you rely less and less on knowing just what to do, your work will become more direct and more powerful.
You will discover that the quality of your consciousness is more potent than any technique or theory or interpretation.

Learn how fruitful the blocked group or individual suddenly becomes when you give up trying to do just the right thing.

Training programs, completion certificates, or professional credentials are important only to the extent that they contribute to real quality on the ground, as experienced by your customers on a sustained basis.

My increasing passion for improvement comes from the realization that I am seeing my past 25 years of hard work evolving to and manifesting the philosophy above: (1)  My advice is simpler, (2) I use far fewer tools, and (3) I've never been more effective...or understood by my clients.

So, as I encouraged you a year ago, resolve to stop confusing activity with impact -- i.e., less "doing," more "standing there!"  Simply “plot some dots” to change some conversations and then enjoy the reactions to your eye-popping results...and increased respect.

Until next time...

Kind regards,
P.S.  Use the simple techniques demonstrated in the 10 examples of Data Sanity's Chapter 2 in the context of the questions of today's newsletter (covered in Chapters 3 & 4) to help your executives move organizational "big dots."
How can I help you make that "quantum leap" to unprecedented results?
  • Need some development that doesn't mean yet more tools ("clutter")?  Let's chat about individual or group mentoring.  [Only 1-2 percent of you need advanced tools]
  • Want to get "unstuck" in your quest for excellence?  How about using your data similar to the examples in Data Sanity's Chapter 2 to CO-facilitate a leadership or staff retreat with safe dialogue that will address today's hard questions?
  • Do you need a plenary speaker for a professional conference or internal webinar?
As always, I welcome contact from my readers with comments or to answer any questions.
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