Simple Is Not Easy

There is a cliché that exists: easy and simple.

The problem is simple is very rarely easy.

Volumes upon volumes have been written about living a more simple life. How is that? Isn’t it simple? Isn’t it easy?

Actually no. Getting to complex is easy. Getting back to simple is not. This is especially true within an organization.

The longer an organization exists the more complex it becomes and the harder it is for it to change and adapt. One does not have to look far to find an abundance of examples of this across corporate America. Organizations, companies that were once at the top, number one in their field that no longer exist or have had to completely restructure in order to remain. This is the result of simple becoming complexity to the point that it is nearly impossible to become simple again. Apple got real simple when Steve Jobs took over again in the late 90s. Jobs fought pretty hard to keep Apple simple. Still, over time complexity has crept in and now the company seems to be refocusing some back toward simple. Time will tell how it works out for Apple.

Most companies and organizations are not able to move back toward simple very well until they are forced to and many times then it is too late.

The best is to start simple and stay simple.

As the old adage goes, keep the main thing the main thing.

Every business and organization whether for-profit or not-for-profit has a core function. Whenever an organization adds on things that seem good but don’t serve the core function of why they existed to begin with, they are beginning to move into complexity.

There are a lot of good things out there. You can’t do every good thing. Your business can’t do every good thing that comes along. The pursuit of the good things that pop up will keep you from achieving your potential greatness.

Every leader, every organization must figure out their core principle reason for being. What is that one thing that is the driver for your business, your organization? What is it you, in your position, should be focused on to move the whole thing forward?

Simplicity is clarity. Clarity keeps things simple.

Staying simple is hard work. You have to fight for it. It takes effort and energy. It take intention and focus. It takes discipline.

Simple is not easy. Simple however, makes decisions clear. Simple leads to effectiveness. Simple leads to profitability and success.

Here are four steps to help you simplify. These work in business, in organizations, and in your personal life.


Without a clearly stated objective, you are just wandering. Very rarely does anyone get in a car and just start driving randomly. There is usually a destination. Your business needs an objective. Your team, your organization, your family needs an objective. What is your reason?

Get absolutely crystal clear on the why and the what. If you are a woodworker, don’t start doing electrical. If you are a software company, leave marketing to someone else. If you make widgets, don’t start making shoes.

Clarify your objective. State your purpose. Make it absolute.


Let go of everything that does not fit within the stated objective. No matter how good it seems, if it does not advance your main purpose, it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong. Letting go can be difficult. We have emotions tied to things and projects. Even in business, people have pet projects and systems. Those can be difficult to deal with and let go. Simple is not easy. It is hard work. Sometimes hard work requires some pain.

Letting go even means people at times. If there is a person that is hindering the objective, then maybe they need to be moved. Moved into a different position or moved out.

Sometimes the thing we need to let go of actually did fit and have a purpose at one time, but that time is passed. Hanging in my garage is an old bicycle. It has no use to me or anyone in my family. Yet, it has great meaning to my wife. It was hers when she was a child. There was a time when that bike was very useful to my wife. It was exactly what she needed. Now, it hangs in the garage and collects dust. In business, that kind of extra weight can become a major hindrance. It becomes a distraction for members of the team. Energy and time are wasted on things that are no longer relevant to the core function.

Just because it is time to let go of something, doesn’t mean it was bad. It doesn’t suggest that was a mistake. It very likely was good. It may have been was exactly what was needed. Businesses, like people grow. Organizations evolve. As such, what once fit, doesn’t always.

Other times we need to let go of some things we never should have started or gotten in the first place. They never fit. They were superfluous from the start. They may even have been a distraction that turned into more.

Let go of everything that does not advance the clearly defined objective.


Most of the time, we would rather say “yes” than to say “no.” However, every time you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to something else. That “no” may be damaging. It is better to choose the “no” then to have them happen because we keep saying “yes.”

As so many leadership authors and gurus have said, “Say no to the good, so you can say yes to the best.”

Say no to everything that does not advance the objective.


Like so many other things, simplicity is not a one and done. We can’t simplify once and think that has it covered. Complexity sneaks and creeps in constantly.

Success requires that we develop the disciplined rhythm of clarity, letting go, and saying no. Then we do it again.

Fight for simplicity. It is hard work. It will pay off.

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