What's a Leader to Do?
Alone in the middle of the street, the gunfighter doesn't have to be the fastest draw. If there's a good plan in place, he
needs to stick to it, which takes discipline, foresight, and logic. Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? And it sounds like a
pretty weak defense against the forces of complexity.
The fact is the enemies are hiding in plain view. From the start they wear signs that say, "Danger: Simplicity Alert," so
you have the opportunity to plan for them just like you plan for competition and market changes.
Will you be able to avoid them all? Of course not—we do business in a regulated marketplace. But there are some things you
Make simplicity a goal of your strategic planning process. As issues are analyzed and priorities reviewed, simplicity, clarity,
and focus must be a primary consideration. Too often timetables and budgets drive decision-making, sacrificing critical strategies
that help keep the processes and the communication simple—or at least simpler.
Once your strategic plan is in place, keep it front-and-center. It helps your team focus on what you're trying to accomplish
rather than getting distracted with issues as they come up (which they always do). Sticking with the plan and staying focused
on its priorities make that document one of the primary defenses against the enemies of simplicity.
And keep simplicity at the forefront when you work with your agency. They're charged with bringing your brand message to the
market, so do everything you can to keep it simple. The creative brief—or creative contract, as some call it—is the key. It
outlines the key issues, focuses the message, and clarifies the creative tasks. Written well, it keeps simplicity on the table
and allows your team to evaluate the messaging and creative with clarity, focus, and simplicity as first priorities.
The Final Ingredient
You may know where the enemy is hiding, you may have your defenses ready, and you may have the forces of discipline, foresight,
and logic on your side. But like our lonely gunfighter, you're not going to prevail against complexity without an extra helping
of courage—deep down corporate courage. The kind that helps you stand up to senior management when you ask for more time or
more budget. Or to defend your claims in medical/regulatory reviews. Or to stand up to your own team members, often in many
distant global locations, and reject the compromises they have suggested. But in the long run it's that courage that makes
the difference between a simple success and a simple failure.
Al Topin is President of Topin Associates, a full-service medical marketing communications company, and a member of Pharm Exec's Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org