Keep It Simple, Efficient & Consistent

Lesson number: 

We all learn about the KISS Principle early in life. KISS is an acronym of the phrase "Keep It Simple, Stupid", and the KISS Principle implies that simplicity is better than complexity in our personal and business lives. While I am a firm believer of the Kiss principle, for this lesson I would like to add the ingredients of efficiency and consistency to the principle, to round out a three prong method for long term success. This lesson was inspired by an article in the October 15th, 2007 edition of Forbes Magazine titled Back To The Future by Joann Muller. This article depicts how Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Company's brand new CEO is taking drastic steps to bring Ford back to using the KISS Principle in order to survive.

As a former distributor of Ford Motor Products aftermarket parts, I have watched the demise firsthand of the Ford Motor Company. Their management in the last couple of decades steered the fairly simple business started by Henry Ford, who would only produce black Model T's into an obese and unmanageable behemoth that lost $12.7 billion dollars in 2006. Just in the last five years, Ford's stock shares lost half of its value and 66% of its brand name value. Instead of keeping their company addicted to the KISS Principle like Henry Ford, they complicated their company with acquisitions of Aston Martin; Jaguar; Land Rover; and Volvo. Now Alan Mulally is determined to reverse this trend. He has already sold off Aston Martin and negotiations are on their way to sell the others.

Mulally seems determined to bring Ford back to the basics. He plans on taking a page out of the Toyota and Honda playbook and get back to practicing the KISS Principle that made Henry Ford a legend. His goal is to make Ford lean and mean again by implementing simple, efficient and consistent processes of manufacturing and distribution of automobiles and trucks around the world. Let's wish him the best!

Throughout my lifetime, I have watched many large corporations like Ford fall into the same trap. GM and Chrysler had similar lapses from practicing the Kiss Principle during the same time frame. However the AOL Time Warner merger is probably one of the worse in corporate history. On January 12, 2001, this merger was approved by the FCC and AOL subsequently acquired Time Warner for $103 billion dollars. Astonishingly, in 2002 AOL Time Warner Inc. reported a 2002 net loss of $98.7 billion after taking a fourth-quarter charge of $45.5 billion, mostly to write down the value of its troubled America Online unit. The write-down, creating the biggest annual corporate loss in history, was more than twice what Wall Street had anticipated. This was perhaps the epitome of merging two successful independent businesses into one over-complicated, bloated disaster.

The Kiss Principle is equally effective in small businesses; non-profit organizations; government and most importantly in our personal lives. All successes in life result from the completion of simple, efficient and consistent tasks and processes. Simpler tasks and processes are always easier to explain and understand. Complicated tasks and processes are easily misunderstood and lead to a larger margin for errors. Simple and written instructions are always superior to complicated verbal instructions. To reduce the margin of risk for failure, try to develop simple, efficient and consistent habits to guide your daily business and personal lives.

I have always found that my best results regarding any project I have engaged occurred over the years, was a result of keeping my processes simple and easy to understand. If you want to have a great sales promotion – keep it simple so that everyone selling it or purchasing it has little to think about. This will increase your success exponentially. I am always amazed at how complicated companies make their consumer rebate programs. Companies offering rebates want you to cut out UPC's on the box; send in duplicate receipts; fill out ridiculous forms; and jump through hoops; warning you that it will take 12 weeks to get back $10. This is one game I refuse to play. The minute I see that a product has a rebate to contend with, I run away quickly.

In the news today, we are bombarded with proposals from presidential candidates to institute universal healthcare program. While reform is desperately needed, the last institution I want to ever see running healthcare is the federal or state government. These are the most bloated, complicated, and inefficient institutions on the planet. There's nothing simple about government agencies. Just look at the billions of hours and billions of dollars wasted just to file our income taxes annually. If we could only get the government to use the KISS principle, we could improve the lives of every citizen. However, we need to start with ourselves. Keep your life and processes simple, efficient and consistent. And start reaping the benefits of the KISS Principle today!