Keeping It Simple

The Key To Simplification

The key to simplification is being clear about what you want and need from a situation, as opposed to trying to comprehend everything about a situation. When you focus your attention on the totality of information and options available, things get too complicated, Jensen says. If you instead clarify what you need to make a decision-or what workers need to do their jobs-then you reduce complexity, he says.

"We need to start asking more questions about clarity, about making sense and about understanding, and less about access to information," says Jensen. He presents five questions entrepreneurs can use to help simplify a decision, or help an employee simplify his or her job. Ask: How is this relevant to what I do? What, specifically, should I do? How will I be measured, and what are the consequences? What tools and support are available to me? What's in it for me and us? Answers, Jensen says, will help entrepreneurs cut through clutter to find the simpler subset of what's important. You can also use these questions to simplify tasks such as sorting through and deciding exactly what to answer in your in-boxes packed with e-mail, he says.

Jensen suggests you remember the five questions by tying them to the acronym CLEAR. The C stands for how something is connected to you. The L stands for a list of steps to take. The E stands for expectations of what success will look like. The A stands for ability, and reminds you to ask what tools and support are needed. Finally, the R stands for the return that will be given back in the form of money, recognition or some other kind of coin to the person, company or team.

If that's too complicated, then just try thinking about what you want and cutting out the rest, St. James advises. "The first step is to really be clear about what your business is and what your main focus is, and say no to as much else as you can," she says. "That way you'll be able to focus on the end product or service and make sure that the people that you have working for you have the same focus."


Don't leave your employees on the outside looking in. Learn how to clue them in on your business decisions by reading "Give It Away."

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keeping It Simple.

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