Goals Nonprofit Strategy Wednesday Whimsy

Simplifying Success

Less is more often the short stick when it comes to aspiration and activity but the trump card when it comes to impact.   Studies repeatedly show, for example, that people buy more when they have four choices than when they have twenty.   If you are selling something—whether carrots or an idea—that’s important.

I once worked with a Washington State governor proud of his 30-some goals. Looks good, I noted, but do realize that your staff can’t remember to do something this day or week to advance that many items. If they have at most 3-4 goals, you will see far more intentional behavior.

Reducing works not just for goals but for the factors used to express it.    We often add metrics, goals, and choices—to appear comprehensive, not to mention well-quantified.  In my experience, comprehensiveness is a red herring.  We spread ourselves too thinly to make a difference while failing to be clear on what is most important.

I wrote earlier of the brevity reflected in such documents as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Ten Commandments.  One great virtue of concentration rather than dispersal is that it takes far less time to write or say something.   I think that is why I like quotes so much.  We could write essays on the relationship between staying afloat or propelling to a destination, for example.  Or we could read Jessamyn West:  The statement, “I can endure everything,” might be the equivalent to saying, “I will risk nothing.”

Let’s risk it.  Try risking the loss of comprehensiveness!