Thoughts on Clarity

I like Patrick Lencioni’s books.  I like them because he tells a story (a la Ken Blanchard), and because he limits his points to four or five things.  I’m a pretty simple guy, but I can remember four or five things.

One concept seems to run through all of his books: “It is more important to be clear than it is to be right.”

Is it true that being clear is better than being right?  As a recovering accountant I didn’t think so at first, but I have found that if you are clearly wrong, you tend to find out sooner if you are generally right. Our goal, especially in the current economic environment, should be to fail early and fail cheap.  You’re not always going to be right, and if it is more important for you to be right than clear, you tend to muddy the waters.  You create goals for yourself and your company that leave room for ambiguity.  You delay decisions until you have that one more piece of data (and there is always one more piece of data).

This concept became crystal clear to me after I got married.  After our marriage my wife sold her house and moved into the house I had owned previously.  I came home one night to find my wife crying on the couch.  When I asked her what was wrong she stated, “I don’t have anything! I’m living in your house and I feel like a visitor.”  We spent the next few hours discussing changes that would make the house more “our” house than “my” house.

One of the highest things on the list of projects was a closet organizer.  I consider myself fairly handy and thought, “I can do that!”  The next week I was able to catch an early flight coming home from a business trip, and was passing by a Home Depot when a lightbulb went off.  Yes, I stopped and purchased the most expensive closet organizer they had, and I had it installed by the time my wife got home.

I was so excited to show off my handiwork with my wife got home.  I threw open the master closet door and shouted “Tada!!”  Her response?  You guessed it, it was “that is not what I meant.”  Turns out what she meant by a “closet organizer” is the thing you hang over the door to put shoes on (what I call a shoe rack).  I was generally right about the closet organizer, but it would have been better to be clearly wrong.

When you are clearly wrong, you find out right away.  When you are generally right, you don’t find out until you deliver the final product.  By then you have spent the money and time.  I spent a lot of money and time on a closet organizer no one wanted.

How many closet organizers do you have in your organization?

I would be interested in your thoughts.  Do you agree it is better to be right, or clear (I know it is better to be both, but if you had to pick one)?

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