Simplicity – It’s Harder than it Sounds

If you had one of the top productivity blogs on the web do you think it would be wise to suddenly tell your readers they should “Toss productivity advice out the window?” Seems crazy, or at least counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly what Zen Habits blogger Leo Babauta did in a recent post. For years he doled out advice on getting more done and being more efficient. But now, based on his own experiences, he’s recommending doing less in order to simplify life; pushing aside the urgent, and freeing up space and time for what’s truly important.

In the post, he says, Simplifying means making important choices about what’s important, rather than ignoring that question.” I’m sure the last thing he had on his mind when he wrote that was the Balanced Scorecard, but it’s perfectly applicable to that quote. A well-constructed Scorecard should tell the story of the organization’s strategy by outlining the vital objectives and measures that will be used in tracking the firm’s success in executing that strategy. The objectives and measures shouldn’t be plucked randomly from an online list, or chosen during a 30-minute brainstorming session, instead, they should reflect careful contemplation of what is absolutely necessary to bring the strategy to life.
One issue I’ve seen with some Scorecard users is a reluctance to embrace the simplicity principle when choosing the Scorecard’s core elements, not because it doesn’t necessarily resonate with them – every head in the room nods when you suggest keeping things simple – but because in the end, it’s just too hard. It’s much easier to choose the first objectives and measures that come to mind and cram your Scorecard with every conceivable outcome, in essence covering all your bases. But of course what is created in those circumstances is not ‘strategic’ at all. Strategy and the Scorecard that results from it must reflect carefully reasoned and considered choices, sometimes very difficult ones. Only then can you be certain you’ve chipped away the urgent, the easy, and the readily available in favor of what truly matters. So when creating, or reviewing, your Balanced Scorecard cast a critical eye on the objectives and measures you find and ask yourself this question: “Have we taken the time and energy to move away from the abundant many to the critical few items that truly share our strategic story?” The clarity and simplicity that result will reward you many times over.

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