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More Is Not Necessarily Better

I was standing in line last night waiting for a shwarma plate and as usual began to offer my opinions about how to run the business better:

·        Eliminate most of the menu – because 90% of the time, people are there to get either shwarma or falafel;

·        Except for expensive things like meat, let people put their own toppings on the plate – because it’s time-consuming for the owner to ask me what I want, and it’s more appealing to take your own toppings;

·        Offer an app so that people can order before showing up, or get delivery – because waiting is a pain.

It’s not clear to me whether I think this way from a marketing point of view, a strategy point of view, a business point of view, and IT point of view or a writer’s point of view. What’s the difference? In the end, the idea is to focus. It’s Pareto’s Principle: 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work.

This reminds me of when I was a kid, growing up, and I used to visit my grandparents in the Catskill mountains once or twice a year. They would always have something called “Neapolitan” ice cream in the freezer. For those of you who don’t know what this looks like, it’s vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, living together in a gallon container in side-by-side blocks.

I would have preferred an entire container of chocolate, but the idea of Neapolitan is to give people a “choice.”

In real life, of course, we all vied for the chocolate block first, the vanilla second, and left the strawberry for “somebody else.” (Maybe you would have gone for the vanilla first…)

The point is, for whatever reason, it is common to believe that “more choice” is somehow more appealing.

It’s not; what I find is that it’s confusing. (Just try going to the grocery store, and getting a simple bottle of ketchup from among the many sizes, brands and flavors.)

The same thing tends to happen with technology platforms at work. It is hard for people to learn how to use a computer system. But things get even more difficult when you offer them multiple ways to do essentially the same thing. Just try to get a team together to decide whether to collaborate over a shared drive, SharePoint, a specialized collaboration system or a cloud-based tool.

Communication campaigns, of course, are notorious for changing “message” from one year to the next or even more frequently than that.

And the institutional arrangements that govern all this, aside from the normal human turnover, tend to be shaped and reshaped into blocks that have little or nothing to do with how the customer actually uses them.

Consultants, service providers and product developers make a living from all this confusion by calling it “competition,” “innovation” and “growth.” To some extent that is true; through an ongoing conversation about the best way to do things, improvements are made.

But we sacrifice something when we uncritically accept so much complexity in our lives.

The key from a leadership point of view is to integrate all things related to people, process and technology under a single dashboard, and to manage them as one cohesive unit.

How do you know when you’re successful? Literacy in strategy, technology and culture goes up; productivity goes up; customer satisfaction goes up; and the results you’ve already clearly identified, for the audiences that you serve, are measurably better.


Opinions my own. Public domain. Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.


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