Focus on the power of one page

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How many PowerPoint slides did you view last month?

For me, it was more than 1,500 pages, including about 100 of my own making. Many executives see that many or more in a week.

The problem is: our attention spans are now as short as nine seconds.

To adjust to shorter attention spans, forget about the song and dance of PowerPoint. Focus on the power of one page.

Why? Because PowerPoint does not invite deep thought. It places an audience into a passive role. It serves up eye candy, invites superficial skimming, and is gone in a flash.

After seeing a parade of slides, how much does your audience retain? Do they get the point?

Last month I also reviewed three one-page plans. And I recall almost every bit.

I'm grateful to a former boss, Dick Notebaert, for teaching me one-page plans. When he was CEO at Ameritech and Tellabs, he demanded that I organize my thoughts on a topic -- and fit them all on one side of one piece of paper.

At first, it was a real struggle to simplify the story down to one page.

But with a one-page plan, both of us could focus fully. He would challenge my thinking, down to the exact word. Our discussions were brief but robust. With a one-page plan in hand, he could reach a decision quickly.

Does a PowerPoint presentation lead to a quick decision? Usually, not: It leads to more PowerPoint, more slides to explain the other slides.

At Tellabs, our one-page plans build on four pillars:

  1. Objectives: What does the company need to accomplish?
  2. Goals: How will the company measure that?
  3. Strategies: What will [the department or project] do to help meet the company objective?
  4. Metrics: How will we measure the success of [the department or project] strategies?

One-page plans clarify expectations for a boss or a client, external or internal. They form a contract.

A one-page plan explains exactly what you're going to do, what resources you need, and how it will make a difference for the company. When you have only seconds to make your point, one-page plans are key.

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