Complicating things is always a bad idea. If you complicate your business plan, you’ll go in too many different directions and you’ll never specialize in one key area. If you complicate your sales strategy, your sales force will operate chaotically, rather than in a unified effort, and each individual may be confused about your overall vision. If you complicate your project plan, none of your subordinates will be able to follow it.
In business, simplicity is the key to almost everything, no matter what industry or position you’re in. Keeping things reduced to the minimum viable product, whether that’s an actual product or something intangible like an idea or strategy, is essential to maintain a focused vision and communicate effectively to outside observers. That might mean coming up with a concise business plan you can easily convey to investors or coming up with a tight marketing strategy to bring to your team.
The problem is that it’s not always easy to simplify things. You could have a thousand ideas in your head, or you could keep imagining new scenarios that need to be accounted for, or you could want your plan to be a success so badly that you throw everything you can think of into it. But at some point, you’ll need to stop, evaluate your position and make an active effort to make your plan simpler. Here’s how you can get the job done:
1. Find and remove the fluff.
This is the most important step, but it will be hard to execute if you feel like your idea or plan is already as short as it needs to be. If this is the case, find a friend or a colleague to go over it with you to identify what simply does not need to be there. For example, if you’ve written a sales presentation, are there any slides or talking points that aren’t essential to convey your main idea? If you’ve written a business plan, are there any target demographics or functions of the business that aren’t essential to your main focus?
2. Determine your central goal.
This strategy works on its own, but it can also help you identify the fluff in our first strategy. Determine the central goal of your initiative. What is it that you intend to achieve? Anything that doesn’t immediately aid this one goal should be eliminated or downplayed. For example, if your company’s main service is to provide financial advice to people but your business plan also includes an outline to offer basketball lessons, you’ll have to make a difficult choice.
3. Separate the high-level and low-level items.
Sometimes, work becomes complicated when it's bogged down with little details. You can remedy the situation by separating all your high-level plans and goals from all your lower-level items. For example, let’s say your marketing plan goes into elaborate detail about how each step should be carried out. Instead of trying to pack everything into one plan, start segmenting it. Create a “high level” plan that captures your overall goals and vision, and keep it short. Then, create smaller sub-plans where you can get into more specific detail without losing focus on your broader points.
4. Consider splitting your idea.
Sometimes, there’s simply too much for one plan or strategy to handle. In our financial advice/basketball lesson example above, there are two very distinct ideas competing with each other. Including both in one directive would be complicated, but if you truly wanted to offer both, you could develop both as individual businesses. In a strategic setting, you can use a similar split to differentiate your main goals. For example, your new marketing initiative could be split into “inbound” and “outbound” sections, or you could create a different initiative for each quarter, rather than one massive annual plan.
5. Give it the elevator test.
You’ve heard of an elevator pitch: it’s your idea (usually a business plan), reduced down to a few sentences, which can be communicated in the time it takes for an elevator to get from one floor to another. The traditional elevator pitch is a useful sales tool, but you can use the elevator test to determine the conciseness of your own idea. Can you explain your entire concept in three sentences? If not, it’s time to cut out some more fluff.
Simplification will almost always work out in your favor. Even if your idea or plan is already concise, cutting out the extraneous details will make your vision more focused and, therefore, more effective. Experiment with applying these strategies to every area of your professional life. Strive to be more focused and more concentrated in your everyday practices.