Donald Sull, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management, shares with Deborah Ancona, Director of the MIT Leadership Center, the humorous and serious sides of the story behind the simple rules idea. Sull lays out this idea in his book “Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World.
“A decade ago, in the course of studying why certain high-tech companies thrived during the internet boom, we discovered something that surprised us: To shape their high-level strategies, companies like Intel and Cisco relied not on complicated frameworks but on simple rules of thumb. This was true even though they were in extraordinarily complex, challenging, and fast-moving industries. The rules were not only simple, we found, but quite specific. Typically, managers had identified one critical process—making acquisitions, for example, or allocating capital—where a bottleneck impeded growth, and then crafted a handful of guidelines to manage that process. This approach helped companies to bridge the gap between strategy and execution—to make on-the-spot decisions and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, while keeping the big picture in mind.”