Unless you've been under an unusually large rock, by now you've heard of the Twitter phenomenon… basically updating the world on your thoughts and activities in 140 characters or less. There are now something like 100 million users, doubling every few months. Up until last December I had thought it was rather ridiculous; who cares if I'm now drinking a cup of coffee? But then I started to experiment, got addicted for a while, however recently have simply run out of time to be active in that community.
I still tweet maybe once a day, usually with a link to this post or to whatever wine I'm drinking in the evening. You can follow me at @superfactory, and you can find many of the top lean manufacturing guys by checking my list of followers.
On a similar note, today's local paper included a couple pages of haiku poems written by local students and compiled by our poet laureate. Yes, our town of 40,000 somehow has a poet laureate. No lean laureate, but a poet laureate. Go figure. Haiku's are also short… 17 syllables arranged in lines of 5, 7, and 5. Succinct, and definitely more pleasant-sounding than a 140-character tweet, especially mine.
Coincidentally yesterday I received the annual report from a company I own some stock in. On the inside front cover of the report was their mission statement… all two paragraphs. I made it through the first sentence or two before I realized they were out to basically do everything to everyone at anytime. Their stock price, by the way, had already done it to me, and after reading that glorious yet ridiculous mission statement I was pretty much done with them. But that's beside the point.
It struck me that Twitter and haiku could help us craft better mission statements. In fact, forcing fluff to be removed to lay bare fundamental simplicity could be a lesson for just about every communication. There's already a "5 Sentences" movement, or conspiracy depending on your perspective, that seeks to minimize email replies. I try, but as my colleagues know, I'm not exactly one for brevity. After some quick research I found that many organizations are already embracing haiku as a way to create succinct mission statements. Try this one from a public library:
Our mission is to
Collect, share, promote, learn, grow.
Users are foremost.
The Non-Profit Quarterly has also embraced the concept.
and even poetic because these words embody the reason your nonprofit
exists. The mission statement will be your north star when sailing
stormy boardroom seas; when discussion gets contentious, we look to the
mission statement for clarity. These few words will guide future
generations of our organizations’ leaders. Outside the organization, we
can use a strong mission statement to communicate the core of our work
in just a few lines. To serve these purposes, mission statements must
be carefully crafted. History has seen few more exacting wordsmiths
than the great haiku poets, and nonprofits can learn much from them.
small number of things, forcing yourself to focus on the important
stuff and eliminate all else.
So how does this apply to productivity? Well, if you think this will
allow you to accomplish twice as many tasks, you’re wrong. You’ll
accomplish fewer tasks. But you will most likely be more effective,
because you will have to choose only the essential tasks — the ones
that will give you the most benefit for your limited time.
What are the other benefits of Haiku Productivity, besides increased
effectiveness? Besides forcing you to focus on essential tasks that
have a large Return on Investment (ROI), it forces you to eliminate the
non-essential tasks. No other system forces you to do that. It forces
you to make the best use of your time. It forces you to limit the time
you spend on things, which means you have more time for other things
that are important to you, and you are able to focus on what you want
to focus on, instead of everything coming at you.
Hmmm… I could use a little more haiku in my life. But back to the original premise: simplifying and clarifying mission. 17 syllables. What could be a mission for Evolving Excellence? Try this as a first pass.
Challenging the most
Traditional business views.
Think outside the box.
Can you condense your organization's mission, or even your personal vision, into 17 syllables? Try it.