Why is simplification so difficult?

Why are most organisations complex, with complicated applications and infrastructure and convoluted internal processes?

A good test of your internal processes come when you bring in a new person to your team and you see the eyes glaze over as you explain that ordering a mobile phone for work requires three levels of authorisation, a Mensa test and a blood sample. It seemed to make sense at the time the process was implemented!

Everyone wants to simplify and standardise. It always sounds like a good thing to do and one that should be achievable. The benefits are huge – reduced cost, easier change, better service and less risks!

The answer is that simplifying itself can be a complex thing to do!

  • Simplification requires us to unravel the knots and kinks in our business – sometimes harder than adding and bolting on bits that have caused the complexity in the first place!
  • Simplification is also a skill.┬áIt requires a clear vision of what simplicity looks like and the method to achieve it.
  • It also requires determination and bravery as sometimes the benefits feel right but hard to distil immediately into pounds!

One company I worked for had eleven ways of paying people for callouts, another had 36 different shift patterns to cover a 24×7 operation. They didn’t set out to do this, it happened as they tried to accommodate different people’s needs at different times and built up over a period of time. The trouble was they were left with a monster!

Another thing to consider is how many company vision statements are a little like a legal paragraph designed to include all possible outcomes and eventualities rather than something truly visionary.

‘Our aim is to become one of the leading providers of the things we choose to do with our chosen clients in the fields that we operate in….’ type of statements are hardly compelling and don’t drive simplification or clarity!

Untying the knots to achieve a more standard and simple organisation can take a leap of faith in the benefits but history and our gut tell us that they are there. Simplification doesn’t happen by itself and it doesn’t stay there without effort and attention!

Best Regards,

Greg Wood, CEO – Illuminet

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