Make it Short and Sweet

I’ve just finished working on an organisation’s Annual Report and Annual Plan.

The journey has wound through philosophical and values debates and inspirations, use of metaphor to paint a picture of the organisation’s vision, and then grappling again and again with the challenge of welding the high level vision to an operation plan.
Yesterday we finished just in time for the monthly board meeting. And there was a sense of elation. Not simply because the job was complete, but that we had whittled the 2011 Plan down to essentially three pages.
It as if we had been distilling a great single malt whiskey; fabulous ingredients, taking our time, trusting the outcome, and rendering down many words, thoughts ideas, and actions into a simple but compelling plan.
I loved it when I heard Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe say he instructed his executives to keep their reports to him and his board very short and to the point, just a couple of pages.
I think the trick is giving up our addiction to thinking good work equals creating great quantities of stuff. We have to give up the attitude that justifying our existence through producing heaps of bits and pieces is effective or productive.
The best stories we hear and retell are short and sweet, but they have an embedded watermark that shows the thinking that has gone in to the them. Do the work, be thorough, produce the draft, then pare away till there is just the essence left.
As Einstein said: Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

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