Why the key to a successful business strategy is doing less, not more


The famed father of modern management, Peter Drucker, is known to have been extremely selective with the ways in which he spent his time.  So how does his less-is-more approach translate into business strategy?

In an anecdote charmingly recounted by Zat Rana on Medium.com, the thought leader turned down a request to be part of a study.  It was into the commonalities of people who had achieved culture-disrupting success in their domain.

He said that:

“as fascinating as such a study would be, it would mean that he would have to interrupt his own schedule to do something that didn’t align with his creative goals and personal objectives.”

Too busy maintaining the status quo

As Rana goes on to discuss, this is actually Drucker practising what he preached about how to be effective in achieving his own goals. Modern culture requires that we are constantly adding to our to-do list. That oh so common refrain “I am so busy” has become a perverse badge of honour.  This despite  study upon study telling us that when we simplify and focus, we are actually much more effective, and no doubt happier as well.

Making the case for more of us to make sure we take up our annual holiday allowance rather than insisting we’re ‘too busy’, Real Business commented: “Working additional hours can actually be counter-intuitive… as the lack of time to relax can… potentially mean less productivity and a decrease in work quality.”

Being busy and less purposeful

Meanwhile, that other great leader, the Dalai Lama has been credited with the following analysis of the confusing and amusing habits of (wo)man.  It is common practice of equating productivity with squeezing as much into our schedules as humanly possible.

Although there is some debate as to whether that accreditation is accurate, the illustration remains relevant. So the story goes, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

CMOs and other business leaders and members of the C-Suite have invariably reached their positions because they deserve them. You have worked hard, you know your job, your industry.  In short, you can do it all and you no doubt feel that plenty of people expect you to as well.

However, we also know that the people who achieve the most are the ones who make clear decisions.  They reduce the volume and align their behaviour with their objectives. It is not always easy to do, caught up as most of us are in the white noise of daily tasks that largely mean maintaining the status quo.

Do less; achieve more

Drucker’s system for personal and business success hinged on simplification, careful analysis of processes and managing time.  The result was that you can go beyond  daily maintenance and exploit new opportunities.

The merits of all of this is that instead of busying oneself with what is a glorified admin list, simplification allows leaders, CMOs included, to do what they’re supposed to do best.  It leaves them to lead a company into the future.

In short, Drucker’s key to being effective is about having control over your time.  It is few people who can really say that is something they have.

The good news is that all you need to do to spot your next big success is create the time and space to be able to see it. The tricky part is getting off the hamster wheel
long enough to give yourself that chance.