THE BLOG
09/16/2014 01:14 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

How to Do Nothing and Achieve Everything

The two people I know who achieved the most in their lives were the two who did least. Deliberately. And they achieved the most because they did the least.

Step forward, Bruce Henderson and Bill Bain. Bruce founded the Boston Consulting Group, and Bill founded Bain & Company. Today they are two of the three most influential and prestigious management consulting firms in the world. When I knew them, they were very small.

What was significant is that Bruce and Bill didn't want to do consulting. As soon as they could, they absented themselves from client work. What they did want to do was to think about the process of consulting and how to make it hundreds or millions of times more effective.

Which they each did. Incredibly successfully.

They did nothing.

They achieved everything.

If I were to be trite, I would say, they did it through other people. Of course they did it through other people! They didn't do it through badgers or angels or slugs. But that does not explain their success. Delegation only works if there is something amazingly valuable to delegate, and if the process is controlled very carefully.

Six Ways to Achieve Everything with Almost No Effort

The first way, and a prerequisite of all the others, is to devise a formula for extraordinary success.

Bruce did it through the famous "Boston Box" with its cows, stars, dogs, and question marks. Nobody had ever explained business success and failure so succinctly or accurately.

Bill did it by working out a special deal with the bosses of big companies -- we multiply your value, you multiply our consulting contracts.

Without a unique formula, there is no great value added.

Usually, the only way to arrive at a great new formula is to think.

Not to do.

Thought drives out thought.

If Bruce and Bill had been running consulting assignments, they'd never have arrived at their breakthroughs.

Once you have the formula, there are five ways to breathe life into it without doing it yourself.

So our second way is disciples.

You gather around yourself a small number of people whom you trust and who will faithfully execute what you have conceived.

The number is important.

Twelve didn't work out too well for Jesus. Bill and Bruce both, at first, had four. Three, four, five -- good numbers.

Retaining control is essential. Next week I'll discuss disciples in more detail, and say how to keep control.

The third way is a pyramid.

With a pyramid, everyone at the top is leveraged by people underneath them. So too is everybody else until the bottom layer.

Nobody ever does something that a lower layer could do -- even if more slowly, or not quite as well.

The result is that everyone does the things that are the highest value they can do.

Very few firms are a pyramid.

I've only ever worked in two that were.

They were the best work experiences of my life.

The fourth way is cloning.

Whatever you are good at, that has high value, find one or more people to do exactly the same in exactly the same way.

They imitate you, learn by osmosis, and practice under observation, until nobody can tell their output from yours.

If you are good at two or more things, you clone different people for each.

Almost nobody does cloning. Don't know if this is an ego thing or what. Yet it is surprisingly easy, if you take it seriously.

The fifth way is to use the 80/20 principle.

Ten percent of customers give you over 80 percent of profits. Probably over a hundred percent.

Identify them. Super-serve them. Get more of them.

Five percent of products give you over 90 percent of profits. Refine them. Lower their cost and price. Make them a joy to use. Market them. Sell twice as much, 10 times as much, 100 times as much.

The last way is to automate.

Stop providing variety. Take or design the best product and process and make it the standard.

Take a service and make it a product.

Make it high quality. But make it the same.

You don't need to do all six things.

The first you must do. For the rest, it's optional. One done brilliantly will be enough. Maybe you want to do two or three. You'll know.

Stop doing.

Start thinking.

Create a unique formula.

Roll it out.

Relax. Have fun. And start counting the customer accolades.

And the money.