The Power of Clarity to Improve Productivity, Commitment, and Results

The Power of Clarity that galvanizes commitment and drives high performance is built on three pillars.

Clarity of Purpose

If you want to maximize productivity, commitment, and results, everyone needs to know what they are trying to accomplish and why. You may think you’ve got this covered once you’ve established goals and priorities. You haven’t.

First, you need to avoid the trap of too many priorities, which is a super common problem. Too many priorities means no priorities. If you have 2-3 priorities, you will accomplish 2-3 things. If you have 4-10 priorities, you will accomplish 1-2 things. If you have more than 10 priorities, you will accomplish nothing. I read this somewhere, don’t remember where, but I know it is true because it applies to me and everyone I know. At any given moment, you need to focus on one task. As your list grows, you spend more and more time looking at the list, shuffling items, trying to decide which to do next, playing games with yourself like adding things you’ve already accomplished so you can check them off, and not accomplishing anything that counts. Focus is absolutely critical. You and your employees must pare those lists down.

Second, you need to create specificity. SMART goals are a good start. but those quarterly or annual goals don’t create sufficient clarity. People need to know what they are trying to accomplish and why every day, every hour, and every minute all day long. Each step of every task must be seen with the same clarity as any SMART goal. Without that clarity, you will wander around being busy without a sharp finish line.

Creating that clarity is a skill and a habit, not a list of goals. Prior to starting any step, you must identity the next immediate desired outcome. When you receive vague requests, and most requests are vague, you must ask clarifying questions so you are clear about what you need to accomplish and why. Clarity of purpose is paramount.

Clarity of Process

Once you know what you are trying to accomplish, you need to know how. A good roadmap that explains the how also reveals intermediate outcomes that provide on-going clarity of purpose.

If a roadmap is understood by others, the benefits are even greater. If two of us have the same understanding and vocabulary to describe a process, we can help each other, correct each other, or step in and take over from each other. If you’ve already begun a process and I arrive late to the game, I can simply ask you what step you are on. Shared clarity of process creates cooperative clarity of purpose. This makes it easier for everyone to contribute effectively.

The value of shared process clarity is pretty obvious when you think in terms of processes that move physical objects. An assembly line. Order processing. Picking parts. But the value grows a thousand fold if you create shared process clarity for processes that move thoughts – processes that people don’t even think of as processes. Processes like decision-making.

For example, there are four steps in making a decision. Most people skip three of them. This is why people go in circles, especially when making group decisions. To make matters worse, most groups that think they are making a decision aren’t. If you listen closely, you will realize that there are five or more decisions and a couple of plans woven into their “focused” conversation. All because they skipped step one – “State the decision to be made.” No wonder progress is minimal, frustration is high, and the introverts in particular are still waiting for the right opportunity to contribute their thoughts! Create shared process clarity and you will be amazed at how much easier it is to focus, communicate, and allow everyone to contribute effectively. Shared process clarity increases clarity of purpose, which, once again, is paramount.

Clarity of Roles

The last dimension of clarity is knowing who is going to do what. Once again, the biggest opportunity lies in specificity.

The norm is to rely on assumptions instead of being explicit. “Joe didn’t complain so this plan must be OK with purchasing.” Never mind that Joe hasn’t been paying any attention because he has been too busy planning his next vacation.

Even the attentive will sit up straighter if you point your finger at them and assign responsibility. “I am counting on you to represent the front line supervisors, you to represent the customer’s concerns, and I am counting on your technical expertise to keep us out of trouble.” Simply telling people specifically why they have been included replaces passive listening with an enhanced sense of purpose.

Of course, being able to tell people why they are being included demands clarity to start with. It also provides an opportunity for you and others to question whether those involved are the right people and whether you are missing critical expertise or representation.

These three simple, easy to understand pillars are all you need to understand the Power of Clarity. Creating a culture of clarity isn’t quite as easy. It requires a shift in thinking, new skills, practice, and, most powerful of all, sharing.