Management gurus often insist that, in order to survive in a rapidly changing business world, companies should become more nimble.

Unfortunately, most bosses have only a vague idea of how to accomplish this.

Here, based on my observation of hundreds of firms, are eight simple rules that should help you :

1. No Meetings Longer than One Hour

Meetings consume the time and energy of multiple people, leaving less time to get work done. The simple truth is that there is no business concept or idea that can't be compressed to fit within a one-hour limit.

2. No Presentations Longer Than 10 Minutes

If you're going to have short meetings, you can't afford to fill them up with long-winded lectures. Presentations should be fast and to the point; you can put details in a separate document that can be read (or not read) as required.  Here's the simple truth: If you can't boil down your message to 10 minutes or less, you aren't ready to share it.

3. Don't Overdo the Overtime

As I pointed out in the recent post "Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week": While working long hours temporarily increases productivity, that boost quickly declines and goes negative.  People who are tired and cranky tend to be either risk-averse or punch-drunk, neither of which makes for nimbleness.

4. Only Measure What's Relevant

Most companies have all sorts of metrics, usually in the mistaken belief that the more you measure, the better decisions you'll make.  Unfortunately, when you focus on metrics that don't really matter, you encourage behavior that doesn't matter either.  When it comes to measurement, keep it simple.

5. Assign Goals, not Roles

Putting the emphasis on the roles that people play encourages statements like "that's not my job" and "that's not my problem."  If you want real flexibility, focus individuals and groups on specific and measurable goals–and then let them figure out how best to accomplish those goals.

6. Communicate on a "Need to Know Now" Basis

Information overload is the arthritis of the business world. People are already flooded with way too much data, so it's in everybody's interest to keep that flood to a minimum.  If somebody doesn't need to know something right now, don't copy him on that email–or require her at that meeting.

7. Ignore the Tyranny of Sunk Costs

It's been said that the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. If a plan isn't working, change it–even when it means admitting mistakes. If an employee isn't working out, cut your losses, even if you spent big money to bring him on board.

8. Celebrate Ambitious Failures

Individuals and organizations learn more from their failures than from their successes. Success can create complacency; failure, by contrast, can spur creative change, but only if people know, at a gut level, that they won't be beaten up for trying something new and different.

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