s your typical operations research engineer/financial executive in the 1980s, and unlike the single folks today I suffered from a scarcity of tools for handling affairs of the heart.
No Facebook, no Internet, no on-line support; there wasn't even a FAQ list!
Being open (desperate) to some "new technology" to help the situation, a business colleague/astrologer and I sat down to survey my desires in a mate, in order to determine which astrological sign offered the greatest compatibility. We concluded that, owing to their sense of humor, openness and joie de vive, a Sagittarius offered the best match for a long term relationship.
Thinking this approach might have some market potential, I spent many hours casting horoscopes and learning to interpret their meaning. Before long, I was beta-testing at local Fairfield County, Connecticut fern bars.
A few months into my project, while inching down the aisle on a flight from Indianapolis, I encountered an engaging, curly haired, wide-eyed beauty sitting in the window seat in my row!
After talking for the better part of the 90-minute flight back to NYC, I offered to cast her natal chart, provided she shared her phone number and birth data.
By the time I arrived at her Hicksville, NY apartment later that week for dinner (horoscope in hand), I knew I had gotten lucky. As fate would have it, Helaine was in fact a Sagittarius.
Four months later, on another flight to San Antonio, we got engaged (no dancing in the aisles).
Clearly, the decision to use a simple tool - a horoscope - in my search for a mate paid off. In business as well, the application of a simple tool or concept can sometimes have a similarly positive and lasting impact.
The apocryphal story of Steve Jobs' return in the late '90s to a floundering Apple Computer is a case in point. Employing a simple product strategy matrix straight from a Business 101 textbook,
Jobs refocused Apple's computer products, stabilizing its business while imbuing the company with a simpler product design philosophy that exists even today.
Even in today's data-driven, numbers oriented environment, simple methodologies can be used effectively to frame complex business issues and to focus your team on what really matters: Example #1:
As a new division CFO, I applied a Porter 5 Forces model
to a proposed strategic acquisition. The resulting simplicity and clarity helped to convince our management team that the purchase should be rejected, due to its high price and weak market position. Example #2:
While working as a business manager for a local computer manufacturer, I created a Balanced Scorecard
- with just 4 key metrics! - measuring cost/asset/delivery objectives enabling our product supply chain to achieve world class performance. The key point here is simply this.
While complex, in-depth analysis is certainly necessary, don't overlook the value of simple tools. When applied well and in the right situation, they can lead to the kind of insight, clarity and team focus needed to successfully execute your plans.
(P.S. to Helaine: Happy Anniversary! Enjoy!)
(P.P.S. to the Boston Red Sox: Congratulations! From worst to first - amazing. Now that's what I call execution!