What’s at the Root of Most Business Problems?


When communication breaks down, businesses break down. To be successful, we must keep communications simple (and, as direct as possible). The more complicated the communication process, the more likely there is to be miscommunication, confusion and, ultimately, mistakes.

In the 1960s the U.S. Navy developed an acronym (KISS) for the design principle suggesting that most systems work best if kept simple rather than made complicated.

Back then even the Navy recognized we made things more complex than they needed to be. In business, it’s a real detriment.

For example: we think we are improving communication by having countless meetings. Often meetings are held for the sake of holding one. It’s scheduled, it’s Monday, and so it must be time for a meeting. Does this make sense to you?

For me, meetings are about working on our business versus working in our business. Get the right people involved, get to the point, make informed decisions, move on, execute and measure.

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I have to agree with him.

Another belief I have; layers of bureaucracy inhibit good communication. This makes us less efficient and leads to indecision. In a past blog I spoke about the power of employee empowerment. Certainly empowerment is good for employee morale, but it also promotes efficiency. Why? Because the people on the ground should be empowered to make smart decisions unbridled by bureaucracy. In other words, keep it simple.


Successful leaders maximize communication flow by stripping out extraneous layers of people and complexity.

  • Break down hierarchies – Corporate hierarchies are bureaucracy’s evil twin. Find ways to foster a culture that promotes teamwork and simpler internal communications.

Successful organizations of the future will be more collaborative, more open, more committed to having an open exchange of ideas. It’s already happening.

  • Keep perspective in mind – One of the main causes of miscommunication is that we see and say things from our perspective, through our eyes, based on our experiences, background, culture and education. But, what is heard is filtered through the other person’s experience, background, culture and education.

Make sure when communicating that you’re being understood. Look for more than a nod. And remember: the simpler you make it, the more certain you can be that it’s understood.

  • Use the right tool for the job – Just as meetings aren’t always the right communications tool, neither is email. That time-sapping genie is not going back into the bottle any time soon, but you owe it to yourself and your business to investigate how to have better, real-time, face-to-face communication when possible.

Face-to-face interaction allows us to measure the subtle interpersonal nuances lost in emails. Don’t lose the art of verbal communication. Pick up the phone and speak directly with the person you need to communicate with.

  • Just do it! – Communicate often and well. Embrace the virtue of simplicity. Not only will this promote trust, but it will inspire others to do the same. Most important, as with all aspects of your business, keep it simple and easy to implement.

Here’s my challenge to you. The next time you are sitting in any pre-ordained meeting, ask yourself, is this the best use of my time? Are we really addressing the important issues that affect our business and our customers? What’s the goal of this meeting and who determines when that goal is met? If your meetings aren’t results orientated take a page out of the Navy’s play book.

It bears repeating: when in doubt, keep it simple.

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Ken has worked in the LBM business for over 17 years, including senior management experience in the manufacture of building products. He has a keen understanding of the relationship among vendors, manufacturers and the independents, as well as a thorough understanding of the contractor and consumer base in every region of the country. Ken's highest priority for Castle is to "buy competitively day to day" in order to keep its independent dealers competitive. "The result is that Castle shareholders enjoy greater returns today than ever before. There can be no greater testament to the strength of the team we've built," says Ken. "My job is to make them stronger and stronger."