I was working as a consultant with E&Y in Dearborn in the early 1990’s with some of the guys at Ford Motor Company on how to reimagine the car development process. We were aiming to take the design- to-build process from five years down to two years. It was obvious, to any car buyer, that Detroit had slowed its design process to a crawl and it had lost track of what it meant to be market and customer centric. What I found being out there was that the size and scale of large auto companies was a blessing and a curse. They had lots of money and lots of people and lots of stuff. But what they did not have was the spirit of Simplicity in Design (or anything else like that). They managed by committee at times and fiat at other times. All of the great ideas in the world did not really matter because they could not be implemented. And so we decided that to get a breakthrough we would use the theme of “simplicity” as the rallying cry for all that we did. The problem was that simple did not mean easy and we had to work very hard (no surprise) to stay true to the theme. *And for all of us in pursuit of THPL we know that simplification is essential to high performance but also the challenge. It requires a different way of thinking. And so to keep us on message in Dearborn we “postered” a few of the ageless quotes that relate to simplicity.
“Less is more” - Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
“If I had more time I would write a shorter letter” - Blaise Pascal (and many others)
“Subtract the obvious and add the meaningful” - Jon Maeda
And so we had the core idea and the principle, the next step was to create the approach to getting to simplicity of design; we first had to think about leverage of knowledge (we could save time and do it better if we copied other smart people), second we forced ourselves to keep features out (we could only add something if it was truly driven by customer need) and third we challenged ourselves to think of how to measure our success in achieving simplicity. Simplicity, as we found, showed itself in the most subtle of ways - we talked about feeling the essence of what we were aiming to accomplish. Aristotle told us that when can “sense” something we are working outside our five senses; it is at this moment of understanding that simplicity is attained.
And so it is, the premise is that simplicity can be seen as an leading indicator of high performance. That is because it takes a focused effort, experience, practice and feedback to bring it to life. Just like THPL, the opportunity is there but it comes only when pursued in earnest. If you de-prioritize simplicity before you know it complexity creeps in; insidious, and debilitating. In our lives and times it is becoming even more difficult to make simplicity a goal. Fighting the potential conflict that can ensue we need to stay true to the simplicity mantra as it is a key enabler of THPL. And so as you create your path through THPL become a defender of simplicity, do not create your own obstacles, allow the elegance to reveal itself, in form and function.
THPL – thus emanates from taking complex ideas, plans, and actions simplifying them to their distilled nature, measuring them against benchmarks and setting them out for others to see. It is obvious when we have hit the mark because when it comes together all that we do appears to be effortless and pure – or put another way simplicity in action.
Loving Life, especially now that I am back in Scranton!
Sally made it around the trip - worked it tonight +20 seconds and just 183 on 4:17 - checked the box