Is Tom Sawyer Slowing You Down?

I recently went to see my sister and her family in a fantastic performance of Big River, the musical based on Huckleberry Finn performed by the Adams County School of Musical Theater in Gettysburg, PA.

I was struck by the scene where Tom and Huck are making plans to free Jim, their friend (and recently captured runaway slave) from captivity. Huck has a solid and easy plan. Tom convinces him they need to spice it up.

“I should HOPE we can find a way more complicated than THAT, Huck Finn That’s more like it. It’s real mysterious and troublesome and good. But I am sure we can can find a way twice as long. There ain’t no hurry.I have huge respect for his approach. He believes that “It’s hard enough to live your own life and you never know the full context”.
The truth is all of my siblings and all of his siblings know if you need advice, just tell your story to Dad, and look at what his face says. He can’t really hide his pride or lack of enthusiasm.Let’s keep looking around.”

The scene is funny because of the total absurdity. And yet, I couldn’t help reflecting on how frequently I (and those around me) do just that. Instead of going with our instincts to the easy solution, we build in unnecessary complexity.

My most painful memory of over complication was a long time ago in grad school. I spent many sleepless nights pouring over reams of data, lots of time preparing the presentation, and writing and stakeholdering only to defend a premise that a committee member said was “either trivial or obvious.”

Of course I was doing what I had to do, as was he. I graduated, we both rolled on.

In hindsight, it was not trivial, but I would give a solid vote at this stage of the game for obvious.

So, years later I still find similar scenes. How do we cut through quickly to do what needs to be done with out the over analysis or dramatization. How much time and money is there to save if we just get real more quickly?

6 Signs Sawyer’s Involved

  • You don’t have a clear VISION, and spend too much time working on peripheral stuff
  • You don’t have ALIGNMENT, so it takes too long for a path to emerge
  • You’ve got plenty of DATA, but you keep looking for more and more
  • You wait too long to include the RIGHT PEOPLE
  • You over-include the WRONG PEOPLE
  • You work on “exciting” and “mysterious” PRESENTATIONS, when a simple discussion would do
So when things are getting to complex, try Hucking it up.
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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Karin. How often I have watched my customers, who are all highly trained scientists, struggle with analysis paralysis. They get lost in sea of data, features and benefits, what is possible over here and *might* be possible over there…until the sales consultant gently nudges them into action. And on my side of the process, the “exciting and mysterious” presentations must take a back seat to just getting in front of people with energy, enthusiasm, and a good story. I’ve come to understand that this process doesn’t require an ipad, computer, or a slide whipping, so it’s best to keep Mr. Pow Er Point on a tight leash.

    My tip for keeping things simple? Show many options but only provide one formal quotation to your customers. Keeps them – and you – focused.

    This is my favorite post! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Get More Done in Less Time: Learning From Crises

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