The Power of Simplicity: An Alternative Way to Manage

The management profession is polluted by trends and unnecessary lingo. This book attempts to slash through all that and establish the fact that keeping it simple, and using what you know works is the best method of management.

The book is about simplicity and therefore the principles are simple. "Through case studies and interviews with successful executives, [Jack Trout] shows managers how to cut through jargon, articulate their vision, and regain control of the vital elements of their business in order to make it thrive."

ATTENTION: Before continuing, please understand this book is written for the manager who desires to improve the day-to-day flow of their workplace. It's a vocational text and far from academic.

Common Sense

Foremost, this book is centred around common sense. Trout recommends the following guiding principles to develop this:

  1. "Get your ego out of the situation.
  2. "Avoid wishful thinking."
  3. "Listen more."
  4. "You've got to be a little cynical" - if something sounds too good to be true, it's reason to be wary

Complex Language

Jargon runs rampant through the management industry. It's not just silly, it's dangerous.

People rarely challenge terms they don't understand, they risk sounding 'simple.' And when unknown words go unchallenged "some expensive mistakes can be made. Never be afraid to say, "I don't get it.""

Email

"A Gallup Poll in May 1998 found that a typical office worker sends and receives an average of 60 emails a day."

That poll was conducted 22 years ago. Now, in 2020, The Radicati Group estimate the typical office worker receives 121 emails a day. That's double!

"Absorb only what is business critical and of the highest quality. Remove yourself from mailing lists, un-bookmark websites, everything."

Competition and strategy

Trout extends his principle of simplicity to strategy, he says: "Organisations must learn that it's not about do or die for your company. It's about making the other guy die for his company."

In terms of developing a strategy, the objective is simple: "You must supply your customers with a reason to buy from you instead of your competitor. If you don't offer that reason, then you had better offer a very good price."

There are four types of marketing warfare described in the book, they are as follows:

  1. Defensive warfare. For No.1 marketplace leaders.
  2. Offensive warfare. For No.2s and 3s in the marketplace.
  3. Flanking warfare. For small or new players looking to gain a market foothold (Dell is cited as an example of this).
  4. Guerilla warfare. For small companies with mini-marketing budgets.

In addition, you should be fluid and willing to adapt your strategy to meet marketplace developments and changing situations. Though be careful, detecting trends can be a complicated business.

Trout sees strategy as emerging from market conditions, rather than pre-set goals made in a boardroom. He argues goal setting creates a certain degree of inflexibility: "When focused on a goal, you tend to dismiss other opportunities." For example, Boeing's move into the commercial jet business (with the 707) was a 'bold move' rather than a goal. 

Customer Service

Customer service is based on three key principles:

  1. You should treat customers so they buy more.
  2. Are happier and don't need to complain
  3. And most importantly, make them smart to be your customers. 

Annual Budgets

Executives must be 'thick-skinned and ruthless' when it comes to budgeting. You want maximum returns for maximum profit. So, "try to avoid having a lot of money spread over too many projects ... This is an allocation game, not a spread-it-around game."

Leadership

Leadership starts from the ground up. And as Trout claims "most of the world's greatest military strategists started at the bottom."

This is synonymous with Sun Tzu's writings in the Art of War, where Sun Tzu promoted the fact that great generals needed to understand all levels of command, from a single unit to a whole army.

More than just staying in touch with the front-lines, excellent leaders offer credentials for their company. Modern examples might include Elon Musk of Tesla, who in effect, acts as a brand.

New Ideas

New ideas are brainstormed to solve problems. But the best ideas are borrowed, "military designers borrowed from Picasso's art to create better camouflage for tanks." 

Dale Carnegie, an American writer on interpersonal skills, claimed "the ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. and I put them in a book..."

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, the book is rather 'simple.' The ideas contained within it were not groundbreaking but came from a place of common sense - though, common sense isn't always common practice.

Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, also affirmed the need for simplicity in leadership. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review Welch says:

"Insecure managers create complexity ... Real leaders don't need clutter ... every person in their organisation - highest to lowest - [needs to] understand what the business is trying to achieve. But it's not easy."

The book is not an academic text and is bested suited for a vocational reader. So, if you're a manager in need of decluttering your organisation, then this is the book for you. 

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