When talking about complexity, first thing in mind are “big” organizations. Nobody thinks about a complex “start-up” and although complexity is related to organizational size, it is possible to find different complexity levels within start-ups and big companies. Also, there are industries that must deal with more complexity than others such as is the case of Automotive industry and Healthcare services. But again, it is possible not only to find complexity in different degrees but also a variety of ways to manage it with neither the same efficiency nor effectiveness. Within processes, complexity will increase not only the defects opportunities with a risk for quality and sometimes safety, but also the time with a productivity risk associated. At an organizational level, complexity is much more than only adding each process’s complexity because not only the interphases but also communications between organizational levels will be complex. Since there is a risk not only for customer experience and profitability but also sustainability, every organization must first define the appropriate level of complexity for its industry and then establish the most efficient and effective way to deal with it on daily basis.
Which is the “Right Level of Complexity?
There is a degree of complexity associate to an organizational size and industry, which it is very important to distinguish from “unintended” complexity. While the former can’t be avoided and must be well-managed, it is possible to eliminate the latter. The intrinsic complexity is associated to products or services, and ultimately to customers. However, the extrinsic complexity is linked to processes and its roots are not in customers or the market but the organization itself. Usually, complexity is an unintended consequence of “adding” without seeing the whole picture neither within the processes nor between them at an organizational level. Thinking in a physical workspace, complexity can be easily visualized as the outcome of “things” accumulation, perhaps they were necessary in a time before, but this is no longer the case. Digital workspaces can be also complex because of “adding” platforms or by “accumulating” information which is not used on daily basis. To summary up, the complexity with which the organization must deal is that which is coming from products, services, customer and the market. The complexity from which the organization should get rid of is the one related to its current “Way of Working”.
Which is the simplest “Way of Working”?
“Way of Working” complexity is the result of the one within each domain People, Process and Technology, and once they integrated one to each other. The “Way of Working” is compounded by Work, Management and Belief systems, that is why the organization must reduce complexity at all these levels. By keeping simple each domain at process level an organization is preventing complexity within its Work systems. It is also important to take an E2E approach within the organizational workstreams to reduce not only complexity from within but also between processes at interphases. From the Management Systems perspective, it is important to ensure the communication flow between organizational levels and the reduction of the management cycles by conducting daily and weekly staff meetings and performance reviews. Finally, from the Beliefs system perspective, it is key to see the value of simplicity and to avoid at all cost to find value in a greater complexity. This is quite a challenge, because our academical and professional training prepares us to value complexity. To achieve the right mindset in people at all levels, the right organizational culture and climate must be in lived on daily basis.
Learning to be Simple to Unleash Growth, Profit and Sustainability
Complexity is liked a contagious disease among not only the processes but also the people. This is because of an underlying paradigm that values complexity and, that once it is in place, no one wants to be “simple”. But complexity is not confined within the processes and it is like a “snow ball” within organization which not only increases risks for customer experience, profitability and sustainability, but also limits the organizational ability to grow and learn. Perhaps the worst effect of complexity in the long term, is that damages the organizational learning capabilities either by completely preventing learning or by making the process more difficult. With an impact on the organizational learning curve, complexity is a competitive disadvantage that weakness the organization. Only by leaving behind the complexity paradigm, it is possible to see and embrace the power of simplicity which is what organizations need to transform their “Way of Working” into a simpler one. This is the best way to handle the complexity coming from products, services, customers and markets by reducing associated risks. As always, Albert Einstein summarized the idea perfectly by saying “Everything should be simple as possible. But not simpler.”
Thanks for Reading.