by Dave Wakeman
My mind has been so focused lately on the leadership failures we’ve seen during the pandemic that I often forget to think about ways that we can help our project teams move forward right now. That got me to thinking about something we often struggle within any situation: simplification.
I imagine most of us feel like we’re managing teams of complex individuals working on complex projects, with answers and solutions that are also complex. If you catch me at the right time, I’ll tell you everything is complex.
Over the years, one thing I’ve learned that adds value—for all my stakeholders—is the ability to take the complex and make it simple.
Case in point: A friend of mine asked me about a branding project his organization was focused on. He asked if I could sprinkle some of the “Dave three-point simplification” on his marketing challenge. I joke, but the ability to simplify projects and decisions for our team members can help steer us towards success—if we do it well.
Here are three points to keep in mind:
1. Focus on the essential.
When we’re working on something, we can go down the rabbit hole pretty quickly, running through all of the minor details, dead ends and roundabout ideas that don’t actually matter.
To be fair, most of us and our team members have a lot of knowledge, and we want to share our relevant experiences. But in many cases, we allow this abundance of knowledge to get in the way of just focusing on the key ideas or tasks. Instead, think through the essential details, actions or points that need to be made. And stick to those.
2. Cut the lingo.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this: people using a crazy language of acronyms, shorthand and code that only makes sense to those within the field. Even if they’re confused, a lot of folks don’t want to speak up and say, “Hey, what does this jumble of alphabet soup and buzzwords mean?”
To make sure we’re getting our points across, we have to step back and focus on using simple and clear language—even if it might seem too basic. When you’re talking and sharing instructions or feedback with a stakeholder, don’t assume they understand every definition, acronym or idea familiar to you.
Take the time to define concepts, frame ideas and make sure the point you’re making is getting through—even if you sound like a first-year business student.
3. Lean on visuals and metaphors.
When we’re focusing on simplifying a topic, we need to consider the fact that everyone learns in a different way. Some folks like to learn by reading, others by listening or through imagery. And in most cases, learning is aided by actually doing something. So as you’re working on simplifying and coaching your team, don’t be afraid to use visuals or metaphors that draw distinctions or illustrate your point in a different way to help others better understand the information.
For me, simplification is a great tool. And even though I know I don’t always get it right, I’d still much rather be known for talking at too basic of a level than as an out-of-touch bore.
How do you use simplification on your project teams? Let me know what you think in the comments below!