In an excellent article on today’s HBR blog, the Discipline of Less, Greg McKeown points out how both individuals and organizations are more successful when they have clear focus. He describes the 4 phases of what he calls the “clarity paradox”:
1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
2: When we have success, it leads to more options and
3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads
to diffused efforts.
4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our
success in the first place.
In my strategic planning work with organizations, I often find myself reminding the participants that Planning is not necessarily a synonym for growth. Scaling down activities (or eliminating them) may often be the most appropriate planning decision. Thus having the discipline to “do less”will lead to greater success.
In my personal career, I have too often been lured toward a job that I knew was not in line with my goals and needs, but the flattery of being asked, or
the money or security offered, outweighed my instincts. A wise counselor once told me that I needed to “beware the seduction of opportunity.” I often think of that advice when coaching individuals or planning with organizations.
In his article, McKeown goes on to make this case for the “disciplined pursuit of less” both in your career as well as in organizational planning. “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”