To do more. Do less.

10 April 2017

Below is an excerpt from an internal email that my colleagues at Plexus suggested I should share more broadly with our community.

We need to do less, to do more.

Sounds strange but I wanted to remind everyone it’s what we don’t pursue that makes us most successful.  This is a revolutionary idea, but it is hidden in plain sight – and very hard to implement.  If you learn one lesson today, learn this. It is:

  • The products we don’t build
  • The people we don’t hire
  • The clients we don’t pursue
  • The markets we don’t enter
  • And the things we don’t do, hour by hour, day by day

That make us successful.

You doubt me?

Consider this:

Source: Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less.

  • The 80:20 principle is a core part of the McKinsey consulting methodology because it teaches companies to focus on the biggest levers.
  • ‘Concentration of Force’ is the key element of almost every victory in military history.
  • Italian’s have a phrase: ‘he who enters the woods hunting two rabbits emerges with none’.
  • The key to the success of all the best sales, M&A, R&D, recruitment, investment professionals is that they allocate resources more like a ‘thumb tack’ (i.e. they qualify options out early), rather than the conventional wisdom (e.g. a sales ‘funnel’).
  • The one question Steve Jobs asked Jony Ive every day was ‘What have you said ‘no’ to today Jony’?
  • On Jobs, when he returned to Apple in the late 90s (to a nearly bankrupt company) Jobs rationalised over 200 product lines down to four…and created the most valuable company in history.
  • Anyone who has ever asked me to review their writing will know about my ‘30% rule’…set yourself the goal of cutting 30% of the words…. automatically the document becomes 2x better…the words you didn’t write are what makes it great.

Incentives linked to ‘hours spent’ and a misunderstood application of ‘client service’ has meant lawyers are often terrible at ‘doing less, to do more’.  Consider my adaption below of David Allen’s (Getting Things Done) well-known task prioritisation methodology.  According to Allen you should:

  1. Delete
  2. Automate
  3. Delegate
  4. Defer
  5. Do

The key to effectiveness is managing tasks in that order.  However, many lawyers, and legal
functions, the approach looks more like this:

  1. Do
  2. Defer
  3. Delegate
  4. Automate (more recently)
  5. Delete

Applying this methodology gives you a 10x advantage in business and life. As the great management thinker Peter Drucker said ‘there is nothing so useless as doing something with great efficiency that should not be done at all‘.  So:

  • When you think about your priorities tomorrow, ask yourself ‘what can I cut out’?
  • When you are building one of our revolutionary products like Legal Gateway or Promotion Wizard ask yourself ‘how can I cut 30% of the buttons, features, steps, words – and get to the essence of client value’?
  • When you are drafting a contract, apply the 30% rule, and think about how you can limit rounds of negotiation by taking more reasonable positions.
  • When you are setting your quarterly goals, or operating plans think, what could we do without?
  • On a side note, the same applies to our personal lives.  A small handful of relationships will have a disproportionate impact on your fulfilment – double down on those.

Time is not elastic so every time you do something – there is something else you can’t do.  It’s incredibly tough (we all like chasing butterflies occasionally) so make the trade-off count.

To make this simple I ask myself, ‘what will I stop doing to do this’?

Given my message, why do I prioritise the time to write this? This is my version of a 10x.  If, at Plexus, we all focus on what has the biggest impact on our mission to ‘Transform the Value of Legal’ we have the potential to be in the 1% of companies that have a disproportionally positive impact on the world.