KISSing is more important than ever

Joe Gornick
Written by Joe Gornick
on October 01, 2010

In my estimation, the old acronym and approach K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Stupid has never been more important. This holds true for processes, communications, presentations, and more. Why?

In today’s stress of project deadlines, tight schedules and information overload, people have neither the patience nor tolerance for figuring something out. Case in point, me. I recently tried to book a health screening appointment online and left exasperated. The process was not clear, concise or fast. The instructions were lengthy, hard to follow and the links failed to take me to the expected next steps. Something seemingly simple—like making an appointment, tied me up in knots. Was it as bad as it felt at the time? Maybe not, but that’s my point—today, the slightest inconvenience, delay, or confusion feels exasperating when other tasks await.

Helpful Advice.
I was talking with a colleague about my frustrating experience and he said his rule of thumb is—“If it is easier and faster to do on paper than it is online, then the process has failed.” I think that’s a great benchmark to remember when you’re designing or implementing a process. Simplicity and clarity have to reign.

Not Just for Processes.
The same thing goes for communications, content, and presentations. Even the most sophisticated individuals appreciate plain and clear language. Breaking up text with intelligent headers and shorter paragraphs to help readers quickly scan to relevant information is always a good approach. Bulleted lists and the effective use of color and other highlighting devices should also be used to emphasize key points and help people understand what you’re trying to say.

Welcome to My World.
I face this issue every week with our Tuesday and Thursday CCH Seminars where the challenge is to discuss technical information in an engaging manner and in a limited timeframe. I have found that a simpler, “less is more” approach is usually better. For example, by reducing the number of topics to be discussed and cutting back the amount of text on slides, it increases the participants’ understanding and retention of information and boosts their overall satisfaction with the training session.

Slow Down and Get a Second Set of Eyes.
I know we’re all feeling pressure and under deadlines, but probably the best thing to remember is to take a moment and have someone review what you’re doing to make sure it is as straightforward and easy to understand as you think it is. We’re often just too close to our own work to see that something is not as clear and simple as it could be.

When in doubt and where possible, cut back the length, reduce the number of steps needed, and focus on the most important stuff. The results and success will improve. But don’t be mistaken—making something simpler is not easy.

Bottom Line – KISSing takes a lot of practice, but it you do it well, people will love you!

For some additionals thoughts on keeping things simple see Keep it simple, stupid! and Craft Your Content With A KISS.

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  1. Rosalie Donlon on at

    I agree totally, Joe. Taking your last point first, it’s important to have someone else read through what you’ve written. When you know something really well, your mind fills in the blanks between step 1 and step 4 but your readers/users need steps 2 and 3 spelled out. Rushing also can lead to errors. One of my favorite sayings, also the title of a time management book is “If you haven’t got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?” That’s become my guiding philosphy.

    Regarding your comment on the slides for your seminars, when I was working in Communications for a major consulting firm I was taught that all slides should go by the rule of six: no more than six bullets on a page and no more than six words in a bullet. I was surprised when I first started with CCH at how dense all our slides are. In the age of information overload, less really is more.

  2. Joe and Rosalie,

    I’m embarking on a mission to re-write our “Welcome to the CT TyMetrix 360° Network” letter which we send to our law firms and vendors when a client asks them to ebill or collaborate through our product, “T360°.” Your advice is timely. I thought our letter/start-up guide was brief and on point, but I can tell by the type of questions coming in to Support many users choose not to read it. I’ll be using your ideas to create a document our users won’t want to put down!

  3. [...] review the ‘professionalism’ cornerstone and adopt a more user friendly policy, very close to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!). Especially because our societies are growing in a ‘fast & easy’ [...]

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