Not occasional clarity but pervasive, 24-hour, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners clarity. Most people never perceive that this is lacking in their organisation, but 90% of the time it is. Just open a few random emails, activate your “brutal-vision”, and read. The muddying messages are rampant. If people were brutally honest in their emails, the time we spend sorting through our in-boxes would surely decrease by half.Steve Jobs demanded straightforward communication from others as much as he dished it out himself. He’d cut you off if you rambled. He ran his business as if there were precious little time to waste, which well reflected the reality for Apple – as surely it does for any company serious about competing.
This is probably the one element of Simplicity that’s easiest to institute. Just be honest and never hold back. Demand the same from those you work with. You’ll make some people squirm, but everyone will know where they stand; 100% of your group’s time will be focused on forward progress – no need to decode what people are really saying.
There is a general perception that Jobs was the nasty tyrant who demanded allegiance, barked commands, and instilled the fear of God in those around him. While Jobs certainly did exhibit these behaviours, this portrait is incomplete. The man could also be funny, warm, and even charming. There is a huge difference between being brutally honest and simply being brutal.
You can’t let yourself be talked into going along with something when you know it can be better. Ever. To settle for second best is a violation of the rules of simplicity, and it plants the seeds for disappointment, extra work, and more meetings. Most disturbing, it puts you in the worst possible business position: having to defend an idea you never believed in.
Your challenge is to become unbending when it comes to enforcing your standards. Mercilessly so. If you submit only the work you believe in 100% and approve only the work you believe in 100%, you own something that no one can take away from you: integrity.
– Ken Segall