I just finished a fascinating book by Matthew E. May called In Pursuit of Elegance. It includes a number of interesting examples, including concepts drawn from application of the Kaizen method at Toyota.
But one of its central themes is that elegance requires subtraction. One of the reasons we are having an economic adjustment right now is that we have spent much of the last five years in an additive state – increasing our ownership of property, buying ever larger automobiles, and packing our homes with stuff. Our corporations were bloated, our governments inefficient, and our time jammed with activities.
We have seen painful resets in all areas of our lives including downsizing, economizing, and bargain hunting. How many things have you eliminated during this period that you really miss? Were you paying for a gym membership that you never used? Did you subscribe to magazines you never read? Have you cut back on some of your children’s activities?
And what have you done with the extra time?
I for one shall be asking myself a new question. What can I eliminate from my day that will make my other activities more successful? (I am of course aiming for elegant, but I am a realist. I’ll be happy with more successful for now. I don’t believe “elegant” is a term that has ever been used to describe me – it is in the same category as “dainty”. )
Maybe we should start asking our employees to consider the same question. What should we eliminate? Is there a process that doesn’t add value? Where can we simplify? What can we remove from our products or services to deliver better value for our customers?
Now is the time to stop adding and start subtracting.