One Sentence to Increase Your Success

It is well documented that 70% of change efforts fail to have the intended impact. Seventy percent! Why do so many “best laid plans” fall short of the mark? In many cases, it is because we haven’t distilled the plan down to it’s simplest, clearest form. In my experience, there is an inverse relationship between the amount of time it takes you to explain the effort and the likelihood of it’s success. Regardless of the “size” of the initiative, if you can’t explain it in a single sentence, chances are pretty good you’ll be in the 70%. Here’s the challenge . . .

One sentence is hard.

There are, no doubt, numerous variables, complexities and details that are critical to your plan. Really, how can you capture that in a single sentence? And in this age of transparency, we want to make sure that people have as much information as possible . . . the phases, processes and nuances of the effort. That’s what good leaders do, right? Provide the context, outline the plan and then empower their people to carry it out? Except, the more complex your explanation, the greater chance it gets misinterpreted in the re-telling. Maybe not by a lot at the beginning, but a small variance at the starting point can lead to an entirely different destination when you run it out.

One sentence takes time.

It is easier, and faster, to include volumes of detail. If you want to increase your odds of success, however, you have to take the time to identify the complexity, and then wade through all that stuff to arrive at the single focused goal on the other side. More time on the front-end of the effort to determine and clearly articulate what success looks like, specifically, significantly increases your odds of achieving it on the back end. “Put a man on the moon by the end of the decade” may have made some people nervous in 1962 — they may have preferred a more generic “30% increase in lunar projects”— but no one was unclear about the measure of success.

One sentence is energizing.

Success is exciting, and when your people know exactly what success looks like, momentum builds and creativity flourishes. People can focus on reaching the specific destination rather than be distracted by preliminary plans that have been rendered irrelevant by unexpected variables. One sentence gives your people the permission to find alternate, often better, paths to your ultimate goal. Besides that, a 47-page plan sucks the life out of even the more detail-oriented person, while a clear succinct target — say a one sentence destination and a one page framework for how you will get there — fuels the innovation needed ensure your project is among the 30% of efforts that succeed.

What’s your sentence?

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