Keep It Simple


Yesterday I introduced you to some of the concepts from Donald Sull’s and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt’s Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World (Amazon). We looked at three kinds of simple rules that provide frameworks for making better decisions: Boundary Rules, Prioritizing Rules and Stopping Rules.

Today, let’s look at three more, this time related to work processes, or how to do things better. They are How-To Rules, Timing Rules, and Coordination Rules.

How-To Rules guide the basics of executing tasks.

AARP’s Rule of One for Facebook posts is a great example.  It’s a formula for posts that includes one photo, one sentence, one link, and one request from readers. They don’t do it every single time, but if you scan their page, you’ll see the formula a lot.

My “Editorial Calendar Rule of Thirds” is another example.  Fill a third of the slots in your editorial calendar with original content, a third with repurposed content, and leave a third open so that you can merge in whatever comes up.

Timing Rules specify that certain actions take place when triggering events happen.

They can create deadlines, rhythms, and sequences to the work.

Implementing a process for adding items to your editorial calendar is one way to codify timing rules. For example, you could set a rule that all draft newsletter articles and blog posts must be submitted 48 hours before their publication time. You could set timing rules about event marketing: save the date cards are mailed 8 weeks before the event, weekly reminders are sent in the month before the event, and daily reminders are sent in the last 72 hours before the event.

Coordination Rules explain how individuals should behave to produce a group result.

This is what governs complex interactions in nature among flocks of birds and bees in a hive. Humans use coordination rules too! For example, in improvisational comedy, simple rules include not telling jokes, always making others look good, and building on what was just said with “Yes, and . . .”  These rules are not about “when” like Timing Rules, but rather about “how.”

Think about rules around communications planning. Mandating participation in regular editorial meetings and using an organization-wide editorial calendar are Coordination Rules. If program staff want their work included in the nonprofit’s communications, they must attend the meetings where those decisions are discussed and made.

Consider coordination rules around information sharing between departments too. Should the development staff and marketing staff let each other provide comments on anything that goes out to the public ahead of time?

I’d love to hear about the How To, Timing, and Coordination Rules you use at your nonprofit. Please share in the comments!