The Fog of Management

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In the early 19th Century, Carl von Clausewitz described
war this way. “Everything is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” He
could have been describing the world of today’s manager.

The conventional wisdom is that you should “plan your work and work your
plan” and you may show up every day prepared to do that. But then things start
to happen. The phone rings and the email dings, and one of your team members
asks for a minute of your time that turns into half an hour. The report is late
and the results aren’t what you expected and the review meeting is five minutes

The thing that’s left out of many management tomes is the sheer velocity and
uncertainty of the environment. Everything is simple, but the simplest thing is
difficult. Here are some ideas for coping.

Keep things as simple as you can. Don’t add to the complexity. Don’t let team
members add to the complexity.

Limit your concentration to the important measures. You may have a dashboard
that lets you review 72 measures of performance, some in real time, and drill
down for details on each one. Ignore the temptation. Instead determine what
three or four things are most important and use them to guide your actions.

Beware the seduction of research. There will always be someone who wants to
do a little more research, but there’s no certainty in your world. A
less-than-perfect decision put into action today will get you better results
than the perfect decision after hell freezes over. Fortune favors the bold.

Your people, complete with their strengths, knowledge, relationships and
human frailties are at the center of your universe of important things. Pay
attention to them as if your business life depends on it because it does.

Boss’s Bottom Line

If the simplest thing is difficult, imagine how difficult the complex things
are. Keep it as simple as you can.

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