Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan

Crave fulfillment personally and/or professionally?

Desire clarity about how to best invest your time, energy, money?

Striving to create more value for yourself and/or those you love?

Then you (and I) need a personal strategic plan. Once you have developed a personal strategic plan you might use these same tools to develop a family or work team plan (the list could go on) that flows from your personal strategy. The point is, strategy isn’t just for the Fortune 500 or sexy start-ups aiming to disrupt an industry! Shouldn’t you use the same tools that drive world-class organizations to help you achieve your purpose more fully? Yes, you (and I) should…and here’s why!

Decision Making

First Worm Collection of the Year

Life is about decision making. If you are conscious, you are making decisions.  Strategy exists to ensure that decisions are made in-line with purpose (or maybe you prefer mission)! My purpose in life is to help people grow…toward Christ likeness if you are from my faith tradition! Ideally all of my decisions would drive toward fulfillment of that purpose…at a minimum they shouldn’t contradict. Once you know your purpose and develop a strategic plan that flows from your purpose you will be able to better make decisions like: Should I make this purchase? Should I change jobs? Should I join this group? Should my company launch this new product? How should I spend my Saturday?

In my family we were blessed with the choice between having our oldest son do another select sport that would take up the time between his soccer seasons – which is his passion – and investing in a family fortress of solitude. He would have loved to play baseball, but as a family we chose the campground. Baseball would have been great. He would have made friends, developed his work ethic and team mentality, and had fun. When we are at the campground we get a ton of immediate and extended family time, we spend time in nature, we relax, we reflect, and we refocus. We were choosing between two goods. We chose the fortress of solitude because it added unique value vs. another sport. In the grand scheme of helping each of us grow we saw the campground as the better choice. This may have been exactly the wrong decision for you and your family, but it was the right one for us based on my/our strategic goals.

The Fortress of Solitude

A well crafted strategic plan will help your decisions be grounded in intentionality, priority, advantage, and improvement.


Every turn is a choice

Mindless decisions tend to be impulsive, add little value, and may be regrettable. Utilizing a strategic plan eliminates mindlessness. Decisions that are on purpose/strategy are by definition intentional. Next time you are faced with a decision of most any size you can ask yourself, “Will this help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” or, “Which of these will best help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” If you develop a strategic mindset you (and I) will still occasionally make poor choices, but they will only be mindless/unintentional when you make the decision not to employ your strategy…and of course that will be your choice.


How do you choose between two goods? Should I refine this spreadsheet to tell a better story or should I have coffee with my employee who is struggling? Both actions are good…which is better? The answer depends on your personal strategy. Which action most moves you toward fulfilling your strategic goals? In some cases this may require you to ask which goal is currently most important. In the case of our choice between another sport and investing in the camper, adding another sport would have further developed important attributes, but those were already being developed by soccer and basketball. We were progressing well toward developing our son’s work ethic and teamwork. We were not progressing well in trying to carve out time for the growth activities the campground provides.

Yes, baseball is fun but…


Strength, yes it’s a stretch but come on…

Are you investing your time and energy in-line with your strengths? We all have limited time and energy. A well crafted strategic plan ensures that you will invest your time in activities where you are well equipped vs. other people or teams (as long as you are self-aware and honest with yourself). For example, I create more value for my family by focusing on my primary work and time with the family than by managing my personal financial plan. I love the intellectual activity of investing, but in terms of my life plan and strategic goals I create more value doing other things. Accordingly, I have chosen to work with professionals to help me in that area.


How do you know you are improving/progressing/growing? One approach is to measure your progress toward your goals. A plan that produces measurable goals allows us to see our improvement over time. The first summer we had the camper we didn’t use it as well as we could have and we knew it. Consequently, we made it a goal to spend more quality days at the campground. The goal has two parts. More days and more quality. The next summer we said we wanted to get to the campground at least five weekends…more time. We did the same this summer. We met that goal. We also knew we didn’t really engage in all the activities that we needed to meet our goals for campground time. We didn’t have the gear we needed to get on the water and to actually catch those elusive fish. The second summer we bought a kayak and brought up the fishing gear we already had. The third summer we bought a stand-up paddle board and fishing gear that actually met our needs. All intentional purchases based on our goals for that time. The quality of our time at the campground increased. Each summer has been more fun, more relaxing, and more energizing. Obviously, this same mindset can be applied at work, church, or other activity areas.

His first solo voyage in the kayak…growth!

I have found that the more purpose driven I am, the happier and more effective I am. If this is true for you then I think you will find a personal strategic plan to be extremely helpful. Accordingly, my short-term plan for this blog and related activities is to focus on crafting strategy. My goal – that I am publicly committing to – is to help folks who are interested create their own strategic plan by creating a new one for myself and posting every step. For those who want to jump ahead please buy or check out the book Playing to Win for an outstanding model from the corporate world (you can buy it from Amazon by clicking on the link). To engage in conversation please like my Facebook page.

Wondering what this site is all about? Read “Why Minimalist Manager”

Want a different take on how to view a relationship? Give this post on mentorship a read.





Three Minimalist Manager Tactics For Thriving In Times of Change

I spend a lot of time talking to organizational leaders about how to lead/manage organizational level change, but rarely have I been asked to talk about how individuals can flourish in times of change. One organization recently asked me to speak to this topic at a large gathering of employees.

So I wondered…How would a Minimalist Manager thrive during times of change? How can we best respond to change in order to flourish? How can a leader/manager help their people to behave in such a way that they might thrive vs. suffer?

I turned to A Bill of Rights For Work and Beyond for inspiration. I believe there are three key things that we must do to thrive in times of change. We should self-lead using these tactics and leaders/managers should make sure their people are utilizing these tactics as well.

The overarching theme for these three tactics is that change MUST be experienced through a lens of positivity if we are going to remain motivated. This can certainly be difficult sometimes, but it is crucial that we find the positive in the change.

First and foremost, in order for us to experience change POSITIVELY we need to find meaning behind change. Change must never feel like change for change sake. There is enough randomness in our lives; in order to be motivated we must understand WHY. We need to reflect until we can find a clear why that is motivating to us and to those around us. To do this we often need to think about how what we do influences the bigger picture. We often forget how faithful execution of our tasks improves our children’s return to school, our team’s performance, or our favorite not-for-profit’s big event. We need to remind ourselves, and those around us, frequently. We need to make sure we can articulate the why behind each task that we undertake for ourselves and others.


Young Eagles Event

Second, we need to build a PERFORMANCE CONTEXT that facilitates success in the new activity or setting. To do this we need clarity of task and purpose. This requires that we create clearly defined tasks that lead to progress toward the new goal(s). We must step back and evaluate which behaviors truly lead to meaningful outcomes. To create a performance context it is also important that we make sure everyone has what they need to be successful. This does not mean we spend money on whatever we think might be nice to have; it means we determine what is necessary and then make sure we are equipped and trained/coached to execute. We often become quickly frustrated when we don’t clearly see how we can succeed. So whether it is helping our kids succeed in a new activity or helping ourselves master the new software package. We need to design our context for success.

ZD Guest Reader

Third, we need to PARTY LIKE IT’S 2039 (insert your own arbitrary futuristic and fun year here). As we transition to the new we need tangible reminders that what we are doing is valuable and that we are succeeding. In the context of self-leadership we need to remember to do this for ourselves. Complete a new task successfully for a week…splurge on a nice bottle of wine or scotch and say a toast to your success. Cheers! Child delivers a face melting guitar solo…Pop Rocks all around.



If we can ensure that we are moving through times of change utilizing these tactics I believe we will experience change as positive and motivating vs. painful and fatiguing. Change is unavoidable! How do you plan to experience it?

My First Minimalist Management Mentor

I recently lost my grandfather. He was a hero to me, and as the title indicates, my first minimalist management mentor. I doubt he had even heard of minimalism, to him it was just how a person was supposed to live. He was a child of The Great Depression, but he didn’t live out of a fear of scarcity. He lived out of abundance. I aim to live a life marked by the same three things I saw in him. Purpose, fellowship, and faith.


It appears to me that my grandfather had a clear overarching purpose…to make life better for others. This drove his business and philanthropic decisions. He was passionate about anything he pursued. He started several small businesses and put in the time and energy to make them successful. These businesses focused on his passion areas of agriculture, hunting and fishing, and community. He designed and manufactured products in response to needs he discovered in his daily life. He was always saying, “There has to be a better…”. He would then try to build that better. Most of his contraptions never made it to market, but they often made it to a neighboring farm or a friend’s home. Lives were made better.

His marketing tactics were community based. He largely marketed his products through county and state fairs. He loved traveling to fairs big or small. He built relationships with people across the midwest and would probably tell you that these relationships were as much the “profit” from these businesses as the cash that ended up in the bank.

Grandpa was passionate about helping people and developing community well beyond “business”. He was generous, maybe to a fault…if that is even possible, not sure it is. He and my grandmother enjoyed supporting children and communities in Central America. They were always “adopting” children from that part of the world. They would maintain correspondence and help to provide for their needs. They also loved to travel to get their hands dirty alongside the people of these communities. My grandfather was very “handy” and he especially enjoyed putting those skills to good use. As usual, he was way ahead of popular understanding. He was working to help people get clean water way before Matt Damon made it cool. This is one of the reasons a good chunk of any money I make off of this blog will go to water.org.


He passionately served his lifelong home of Gladbrook Iowa. His passion for this place bordered on the absurd if viewed through the lens of a modern “big city” existence. This was most apparent when he and a buddy decided that if they built an absolutely gigantic, maybe record breaking, ear of corn for the annual Corn Carnival they might attract people to their small town…or at least earn it some attention. He was happy to put in the time and money to make this happen. He loved his community!


It is just as important that he understood who he was not. If a potential activity didn’t align with his purpose and/or passions, he didn’t dedicate time to it. Time is precious, he understood that and now so do I.


If you ask people about my grandfather fishing will inevitably come up. He loved to fish. I believe one of the primary things he loved about fishing was the fellowship it enabled. Fellowship isn’t just exchanging pleasantries in some church basement or community hall. Fellowship is about building and fostering a community of shared interests. Grandpa loved to be around people who shared his interests. Yes, he loved to catch the “big one” but he really enjoyed trading stories with his friends and family while floating on a lake or ocean wetting a line. These are the times with him I most enjoyed. I learned much from him sitting on his boat and what I learned went way beyond how to tie a clinch knot.



My grandfather lived out a quiet faith. I am not sure I ever heard him “evangelize” and he certainly wasn’t a bible thumper. But it was clear that he was a man of faith because of how he invested his time, talents, and other resources. He was truly stewarding what God had blessed him with. He understood that he was blessed and he wanted to share those blessings with others. I am sure he did more for people than I will ever know, but I know he did a lot and I only hope I can live out my faith half as well as he did his.

The final point I will note about what I realized while reflecting on my grandfather is that life is not easily categorized. Our beliefs drive our purpose (assuming we have discerned one), and in turn our relationships. We are whole people all of the time and we need to manage accordingly. As I have noted in other posts, Minimalist Management is not just about what we do at work. We are “managing” in all areas of our lives at all times. How about we strive to manage well?

I adored my grandfather and will miss him for the rest of my life. I owe him more than I could ever express in a blog post. I hope and pray that I can influence people the way he influenced me. Don’t overlook the amazing people who are already in your life. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone new you seek out. She or he might be right in front of you.

Who is your mentor?

Who are you mentoring?


Yep, he built his mower on a car frame…I recall it being a Chevy Cavalier.

Want to join the Minimalist Manager Community? Just click!

Three Simple Tips To Make Your Airport Time More Purposeful

You don’t have a Super Duper High Flyers Club membership to get away from the chaos??? Me neither. If you do…can I borrow it sometime?

In trying to thrive in the airport – or at least survive – I have found three simple moves very helpful in keeping me thoughtful and productive (and yes, I’m writing this in the Atlanta airport).

1. Go Upstairs To Eat

In many airports you can find relative peace and quiet by paying a few extra dollars to go eat and/or drink in a restaurant/bar separated from the primary public spaces. To make things tangible. Today I spent $16 at P.F. Chang’s where I ate well, had a few ice teas, charged my devices, and did some reflecting. Juxtapose this against $11 to eat at generic airport asian place where the food is under a heat lamp and I would have had my choice of lovely fountain drinks. Also, no seats, views, or electronic hook-ups. Yes, it’s five extra dollars, but I gained over an hour of peace and productivity.

2. Skip The Train

If you love being surrounded by people with luggage falling on you, please disregard this point.

When time allows skip the mass transit and take a walk. Good for your health and peace of mind. Get some space and time to think. Many airports are trying to make these spaces enticing by putting in art installations. The one pictured above comes with the sounds of nature. Quite pleasant!

3. Wait To Go To Your Gate

Why sit at your crowded gate when you can sit in the peace and quiet of a gate with a much later flight? You know what time boarding will begin. You won’t be late. Why emerse yourself in the noise and nuisance of a busy gate when peace may only be a few yards away?

While I’ll grant you that not every airport experience lends itself to the implementation of these tips, many do. Take advantage of the little opportunities that many people miss to gain some peaceful and purposeful time.

Bonus. Originate At A Regional Airport

If you have ever been lucky enough to originate from a great regional airport like Omaha you know that long security waits aren’t the norm everywhere. Having the luxury of frequently originating in Omaha has allowed me to sleep at least an extra hour prior to most every trip vs. a “big city” departure.

Ingredients For Success From Great Chefs – Achatz Edition

Let’s get this out of the way up front, I am obsessed with Chef’s Table. It feeds my soul! I suspect this post is simply the first course of many in the meal that is “Ingredients For Success From Great Chefs”. All puns intended, but I will try to limit them from this point forward.

Introduction To The Series

Many world class chef’s are amazing people, many are jerks. I am going to try to write about the one’s who I believe are amazing people that add more to the world than they subtract. Obviously their cuisine adds value or they wouldn’t be believed to be great chefs, but I want to look deeper. I want to try to see what we can learn from the chefs who create amazing experiences for BOTH their patrons and their kitchen.

Why look at chefs in the context of a minimalism themed blog? Chefs, while their recipes are complex, have a clear purpose…create experiences around food that feed body, mind, and in some cases, soul.

Grant Achatz – Alinea

Learning about Grant Achatz has been a mind blowing experience. Grant was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, has won essentially every culinary award, and appears to have made a lot of money. He is clearly a success by any normal standard. But if you have been following this blog, you know that is not what The Minimalist Manager is all about. I am writing about Chef Achatz because I believe he is truly inspiring others with his purpose driven work and is empowering his team to do the same.

In watching the Chef’s Table and reading about Achatz, three lessons emerged regarding success.

There Will Be Pain

In Chef Achatz’s life the pain was both quite real, life threatening in fact, as well as figurative. Grant didn’t graduate from culinary school and immediately start a world class restaurant. In fact, his first big opportunity was a flop. When he landed a position cooking under Charlie Trotter (a world class chef who I will never feature) he learned from an anti-mentor about how not to run a kitchen. He saw a cut throat environment that was all about individual rather than team pursuits…he was miserable and did not last long. Painful learning experience. Grant thought about hanging up his apron. The culinary world is obviously glad he didn’t.

We can all learn from this experience. Most great success does not come easy, there is usually failure along the way that causes people to consider what they really want. Purpose is called into question! Sometimes this leads people to understand that they are truly off track and need to make a major change. Other times it simply clarifies what people truly want and better illuminates how they need to move forward.

The literal pain came as Chef Achatz and Alinea where hitting their stride. Chef Achatz was diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer…yep, a world class chef with tongue cancer (you can read the amazing details of his treatment and recovery elsewhere). He lost his sense of taste for a time, but actually used this to his advantage. This trial led him to a greater intellectual understanding of what made great food and to a greater trust and use of his team…breakthrough stuff in the world of fine dining.

We all have trials, most less dramatic than his. What can we learn from our trials that will make us better moving forward?

Curate Experience

To fully understand the degree to which Grant’s team thinks about experience you will need to dine at the restaurant (I have not but would love to if someone would like to take me), but through Chef’s Table you get a sense. Every decision is made toward the goal of blowing the guest’s mind. Foods are made to look like other foods, restaurant decor is turned into food before the guest’s eyes, and foods literally float. Even the way patrons enter the restaurant is viewed as part of the dining experience. Notice I didn’t highlight the flavor of the food. It obviously tastes amazing, but that is simply the start.

Chef Achatz is also curating a work environment that maximizes the creativity of himself and his team so they can continue to create these amazing experiences anew. Team members are given voice and encouraged to create. Achatz has also created a cuisine skunk works where he and his team experiment until innovation is achieved. He believes that innovation is more a product of hard work than flashes of brilliance.

What is your singular goal? Your team’s? What experiences are you curating for your clients/customers/patrons and team that lead toward execution of your goal?

Find and Be an Amazing Mentor

After Grant’s painful experience in Charlie Trotter’ kitchen. He found his way to Northern California and The French Laundry. When he walked in to inquire about a job he found a man sweeping the floor only to learn that the man was Thomas Keller. In short he found a mentor who ran a world class restaurant in an empowering way. A leader who created a culture of continuous growth and creativity. Grant’s understanding of his purpose was clarified through this relationship. He was given the opportunity to learn to create for himself. When Achatz created his first signature dish Keller asked Grant if he was ok with his creation forever being known as a French Laundry/Keller dish or whether he would like to save it for himself. Grant gave back to his mentor.

Fast forward several years and you find a culture at Alinea that is reminiscent of French Laundry and a cook being mentored by Chef Achatz who has figured out how to make sugar float…yep. Grant of course asked his protégé, “are you ok with this dish forever being known as an Alinea/Achatz dish?” Protégé again gave back to mentor.

Greatness begets greatness!

Who should you be learning from? Who should you be mentoring?

Chef Achatz is an inspiration. Time for me to do some imagining about how to better curate experiences in my context! I wonder if Chef Achatz would mentor me?



Wise is as Wise Does

Wisdom is a misunderstood concept. When thinking of wisdom many people imagine an old man stroking his white beard, or a Tibetan monk type who spends most of his time praying in seclusion. While folks that fit this description might well be wise, these are not helpful images for a leader to have in mind.

Meditating Monk.jpg

In my way of thinking, which is based heavily on the book of James*, one cannot be wise unless one acts wise. To twist the phrase from Forrest Gump…

Wise Is As Wise Does

Anyone can be wise, facial hair or not. Wisdom is seen through the lens of action. Leaders who are wise will be seen as:

  1. Gentle: Leaders who are gentle do not seek harm for others. This isn’t just about physical harm. This relates to how we speak to others, how we speak about others, and whether we consider the impact our actions indirectly have on others.
  2. Willing to yield: Leaders who are willing to yield are not stubborn. They listen, will admit when someone else has a point, and will change.
  3. Merciful: Leaders who are merciful are kind and forgiving even when they have every right to treat someone harshly.
  4. Showing no favoritism: Leaders cannot show favoritism. Nothing good comes from having in-groups and out-groups. Everyone has to feel they are a part of the team in order for them to strive toward a common goal.
  5. Sincere: Leaders who are sincere have integrity. They value the right things and they genuinely live out those values.

Leading wisely yields peace amongst the team! This peace creates a culture where people feel safe, and thus are willing to put themselves out there on behalf of the team. Isn’t this what we all want?


Motives Matter

Leaders must also check their motives. Only people motivated toward the good of others are engaging in wise action. People who are motivated by jealousy and/or selfish ambition will not act wisely. Jealous people are acting either out of envy or the need to try to protect what they perceive to be theirs. They are not thinking about how to create the best outcome for the team. Similarly, while ambition is not a bad thing, ambition that is simply about self promotion isn’t wise. Over time followers will see through selfish leaders. A selfish leader’s actions will give her/him away and people will begin to sense disorder. Ultimately, this will ruin any chance for peace and safety. Thanks for playing selfish leader…Game Over!!!

*True Wisdom Comes from God

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.


Email is Evil…And It’s Your Fault

We’ve heard it ad nauseam: technology is supposed to make our lives easier, save us time. And every time a new gadget or an upgrade of an existing one hits the market, this mantra is repeated…despite the unmentioned time and money required to upgrade said gadget.

Email was hailed as the great time saver. Shoot your colleague a quick email instead of schlepping to her cubicle for a face-to-face. Technology researcher Alexandra Samuel was fed up with the ever-escalating number of emails she received. They were taking her attention away from more important tasks. So she devised a plan to “tame the beast” and shared this plan in an article in the “Workplace Technology” section of a March issue of the Wall Street Journal.

According to her article, a startling 40% of white-collar workers spend an even more startling three hours a day on email. That’s almost half an average workday. Even more depressing is only a mere 6% expect their email to decline in the next two years. Ugh, where is my Prozac???

There are at least two major problems with email (actually way more but I will save those for another day). First, there are all sorts of irresponsible emailers. In some work places and in our personal circles there are folks who think the latest Youtube video of a cat dancing is a worthy addition to your bulging inbox.

But the more insidious disease for most of us is non-productive, but work related emailing. This problem cuts two ways. First, there are the people who SPAM our inbox with email that doesn’t add any real value. Ignore emails that don’t REQUIRE your attention if at all possible. If you are purpose driven it will be fairly easy to tell what requires your attention.

Here is the bigger issue. You, and I, self-sabotage. We send emails that are unnecessary or prioritize email over more important work. Here is why…. at least in part.

  1. It is easy. Face it, most of the time we prefer to cross easy tasks off of our list despite their relative unimportance. Crossing things off of our list feels good. We delude ourselves into thinking we are being productive.
  2. It is low risk. It is hard to fail at email…at least as long as you avoid “Reply All”. No body ever got fired for keeping their inbox neat and tidy. We often fear – at least subconsciously – that our efforts won’t pay off, but email allows us to succeed repeatedly.
  3. It’s conspicuous. There is no way to question whether someone is “working” when you get emails from them. We all know that if we send emails throughout the day that people will notice our effort. However, conspicuous behavior doesn’t necessarily create value over the long-run.

We all deserve to believe we can be successful at work! (#6) Don’t hurt your employees’ and peers’ ability to believe in their potential for success by SPAMMING them for your own gratification. Furthermore, don’t hinder your own ability to strive toward something meaningful (#1) by getting sucked into the email wasteland.

Back to Samuel’s email overload. She broke free from email by using other modes of communication to collaborate with colleagues and keep in touch with family. Tweets and texts are short but sweet and don’t absorb large chunks of your time. Drafts make the rounds on Dropbox or Google Drive. Slack, the group-messaging tool, comes in handy for quick questions. And let’s not forget about getting off of our butts and talking to people in person.

The result? Her inbox no longer gives her angina. Perhaps not the loftiest of professional goals but nonetheless a good thing.

Goals Are Good! For most people…

Exhausted all the time? “GOOD” management might be crushing you!

It is old hat to say that managers should lead toward goals in order to drive efficiency and effectiveness…although many managers still fall short here. It also true that conscientious people are more likely to strive to achieve goals and that more emotionally stable people are less likely to experience stress and exhaustion. However, goal directed management is no silver bullet. For some people goal pursuit might have unintended consequences like stress and exhaustion. Exhausted people aren’t flourishing!

Perry and colleagues* studied 252 customer service providers and 47 of their managers, as well as 392 manual laborers and 41 of their managers. They found that people who are high in conscientiousness and emotional stability and have goal focused managers are less likely to suffer from exhaustion. This is not surprising and reinforces prior research!

However, they found two interesting and important things. First, people who are lower in conscientiousness and emotional stability are more likely to be exhausted in highly goal focused situations. Second, a lack of conscientiousness can be offset by emotional stability and vice versa. Accordingly, if you want to avoid burning out those around you it is imperative that you hire people who are either highly conscientious or emotionally stable…if you cannot find people who are both.

The Minimalist Manager Take Aways:

  • Hire for conscientiousness and emotional stability.
  • Tailor goals and communication around goals to each person’s needs.

*Perry, S. J., Witt, L. A., Penney, L. M., & Atwater, L. (2010). The downside of goal-focused leadership: The role of personality in subordinate exhaustion. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1145-1153.


The Drunk Moose Decision Rule

We all have many demands on our time and for our attention. Some are worthy… others, not so much. How we approach these demands says a lot about our managerial style. It is more difficult – though not impossible – for stressed, overworked folks to be efficient and effective. Managers who can address what is critical and shelf – or, better yet, delegate – what is not, free up time and energy to be more purposeful. They prioritize. It’s a hallmark of the Minimalist Manager, whether you are managing a staff of 50, a classroom of 20, junior high basketball team of 10, or a household of 3.

Or drunken moose and vindictive owls in Anchorage, if you are Rick Sinnott, former wildlife biologist for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. In a recent broadcast of This American Life entitled “When the Beasts Come Marching In,” NPR’s correspondent caught up with Sinnott and talked to him about how he manages some of the wild animals whose presence is pestering.

Anchorage’s citizenry prides itself on its tolerance of its four-legged and winged animal neighbors… a “Hey, can’t we all just get along?” type of attitude prevails. Except when the animals no longer play by the rules…as though they got the rulebook. Owls are stately when perched high above on a remote tree limb. They quickly become a menace when they dive bomb skiers, vicious talons striking with vengeance. Turns out, pet owners don’t like it when their furry friends turn into a wolf’s first course. And then there are the moose, which often roam into town during the winter months to forage for food and get Christmas lights tangled in their antlers or eat fallen, fermented crabapples and get tipsy. What a scene!

Sinnott received countless complaints about wildlife forgetting their place (a.k.a. in a real life landscape portrait) and interfering in humans’ daily routines. While he took the calls that came in, he didn’t have to respond to them all. Common sense, another hallmark of the Minimalist Manager, ruled the day. If a human or an animal was in danger, he intervened. Otherwise, he’d be spending his days responding to calls like the one he received about a moose blocking a person’s path to his car. Sinnott’s advice? Call your boss and tell him you’re going to be a little late today.

This is not to say that those you manage are little more than dim animals (Did you know the moose’s brain is only the size of an orange?) but to underscore effective managerial practices. Prioritize, set decision rules. Respond to what is necessary, not what everybody necessarily wants. Determine what your “drunk moose” situations are and tend to those.

A great read on decision making. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Other good reads: Purposeful Consumption (Books, Movies, etc)


Why “Minimalist” Manager?

I am sure a few people out there are wondering why I call this blog The Minimalist Manager. A few might be thinking, “Todd’s first two posts didn’t scream minimalism to me”. So here goes…Minimalism and Minimalist Management is about cutting through the chaos and clutter to get to clarity of purpose and freedom to strive toward that purpose. Only under these circumstances will people fully flourish.


Minimalism is way of proceeding that rejects the idea that we have to do everything and consume much in order to be happy. Minimalist Management proposes that we need meaningful and clear work in order to grow and thrive. Minimalism does not mean we should all retreat to the woods, forage for food, and meditate all day long. It means we should decide what we truly value and organize our lives accordingly. This extends well beyond work, but it is a powerful way of approaching our work lives. As the The Minimalist Management Manifesto suggests, I believe that our greatest aspiration should be to help others flourish while striving to flourish ourselves. I believe we can best achieve this by pruning back to what’s healthy and productive.

I fail at this regularly, but I am most happy when I am working on core activities both at work and at home. Peripheral activities may be required at times, but they should be minimized in favor of value creating activities. Each of us must determine our core value creating activities and invest as much time there as possible.

Three clarifying questions:

Which of your activities create the most value for you and those you value?

When do you feel most productive?

When do you feel most like your true self?

Most of us do not have the luxury of quitting our jobs and retreating to nature or traveling the world…if you do you probably are not reading this blog. But many of us could focus our time and energy differently, change jobs, change companies, or change careers once we determine the circumstances that will best enable us to flourish. We must create a context for our growth. We owe it to ourselves and those we value.

Ask the tough questions!!!

More on Minimalism. These guys’ blog has been important in driving minimalism.

Here is a collection of their essays on the topic. Essential: Essays by The Minimalists

In order to move forward information is often helpful.

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