Good Habits #37: Keep it Simple

By | March 1, 2018

[March 1, 2018]  One of the first things that I learned from my military instructors on how to be a leader was to keep things simple.  That’s not exactly what they said, it was keep it simple, stupid which is usually said in its acronym form KISS; oddly enough, originally a design application of the U.S. Navy in 1960.

Its KISS principle is widespread and a basic rule that good leaders follow daily.  The concept was popular in the military during the 1970s and is still today, in particular under combat conditions.  Military planners figured out that when things are complicated or require a network of things to work harmoniously; they will often failed when put under stress.

It has been often said that a simple plan today, poorly executed, is better than a complex plan tomorrow, well executed.  Humans, being who we are, are prone to mistakes, biases, and selectivity in what we do.  When things are kept simple, those are less likely to enter as a variable in our behavior.

The KISS principle has many variations, like “keep it short and simple,” but the idea remains the same; humans are error prone and when things are kept simple the end result is typically a better product.  I’m reminded of the 1999 NASA Mars Climate Orbiter than burned up in the Martian atmosphere because engineers had failed to convert units from English to metric.

Of course, funding, designing, building, launching, and the monitoring a spacecraft is highly complex.  A NASA review board quickly discovered the problem; caused by different agencies using differing systems of measurement … and nobody checked.  To make a bad situation worse for NASA, the Mars Polar Lander, launched 23 days later, also disappeared.

The lesson is very clear; don’t put complexity into things that can be made simpler; less mistakes will be made that way.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

2 thoughts on “Good Habits #37: Keep it Simple

  1. Joe Omerrod

    I’m not sure where the KISS principle came from but it works!

  2. Army Captain

    K.I.S.S. we still teach it. Recruits in basic training are taught it to this day. Nothing reminds me more of how to insure good leadership at the junior level than to keep any operation at the KISS level.

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