The Power of Minimalism

While serving in the US Army, I discovered that nearly everything I was expected to do, regardless of what duty assignment I held, was standardized and published in a policy letter, regulation, or code.  This by no means constitutes a startling revelation, but it was the first step in understanding “the power of minimalism.”

SImply stated, “Meet all the basic or minimum requirements of an organization, and one can realize complete success.”  Let me expand on this.  If you are able to gather all the rules and policies, understand them, implement them, and get your subordinates to do likewise, you are a smashing success.  Most organizations have some type of enforcement–inspections, walk-throughs, certifications, but in the end, most sections of the organization don’t comply, and range from slight margins of error to gross ineptitude.

Another interesting by-product of “meeting the minimum standards” is that in the very pursuit of these standards, a group improves, aligns itself with organizational goals and progresses toward the theoretical “ideal” of the prescribed “culture” fostered by the organizational principals (senior leaders).

Effort expended toward meeting minimal objectives has a momentum that can carry a group over the top.  Be warned, however, overzealous drives to meet the minimums can also carry a group over the edge.  Balance is key.  Move at a deliberate pace, keep an eye on your team, and encourage everybody along the way.  Believe it or not, there is some shock associated with trying to do everything “the right way.”

Compliance is not capitulation.  Meeting the minimum sounds like under-achieving, but if one truly and honestly assesses the posture and status of “the group,” one often finds that the minimum is actually not achieved, and therefore a goal to strive for.  It is a set of standards, but for the most part, in the military, in civilian industry, government, the private sector, and so forth, the minimum has diminished into goals that are only achieved and sustained if “the boss” checks them.

One last thought–You can only do so much.  Striving for the minimum will become striving for the maximum…

MNS Olathe