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Experiencing Daily Complexity? Try These 5 Remedies

Friday, August 26, 2022

Seven years ago, Deloitte research revealed that seven out of 10 organizations rated the need to simplify work as an “important problem.” Since then—even with a mountain of data proving that simple brands outperform the competition—only 10 percent of today’s companies have a simplification program in place.

As a CEO and the author of Why Simple Wins, I focus with my team on eliminating complexity from every step of our clients’ processes and workflows. If you find yourself encountering red tape and bureaucratic hurdles every day but aren’t sure how or where to start, consider these five tactics; they’re designed to minimize time sucks so you can maximize your time on endeavors that move your business forward:

1. Equip managers with outcome-focused solutions.

Train your people to resolve gripe sessions by asking “What does a successful outcome of this conversation look like for you?” By encouraging employees to phrase their grievances as wishes, you transform a complaint like “I hate our hiring process” into a solution-centered statement like “I wish our hiring process required only two levels of approval and could be wrapped up in two weeks.”

2. Ask “Who will miss this process if we get rid of it?”

Before simplifying a process or procedure, break it down into steps and identify who benefits from the information. If the answer is consistently “no one” or “it’s just a nice thing to have,” eliminate the process altogether.


3. Make simplification mandatory in strategic planning.

For every new strategy that’s added to your annual plan, remove an initiative that was rolled over from last year. Simplifying annual planning means holding yourself (and your teams) to a rule of subtracting one item for every addition. Getting rid of strategies that haven’t made an impact in previous years creates room for new approaches and experiments.


4. Empower a group of people across the organization to remove time sucks.

Borrow a page from the playbook of Richer Sounds in the UK. The audio retailer created a Cut the Crap Committee, through which managers from all over the business meet regularly to identify and abolish unproductive systems and paperwork. It may not be a coincidence that Richer Sounds also holds the Guinness World Record for the highest sales per square foot of any retail outlet in the world.

5. Assign decision making to one or several qualified individuals.

The failure to clarify who should make which decisions can slow down decision making and create unnecessary meetings. When delegating a decision, it doesn’t mean other voices shouldn’t be consulted; it means those voices don’t need to be present at the decision point. As in, when human resources decisions are being made, the research and development team doesn’t need to be in the room. Trim your own meeting invite list accordingly.

Examining how everyday tasks like these are handled in your organization can help steer the business toward smoother operations. Encourage your team to question any process without purpose—and encourage leadership to reward employees who identify ways to simplify processes. Continue reviewing and streamlining your internal processes and you’ll witness a tangible shift away from complexity and toward a smarter, simpler way to work. And for even more simplification tips, tricks, and work hacks, check out our OpenSesame courses!

About the Author

As a globally recognized futurist and expert on innovation, Lisa Bodell ignites new thinking at every event with high energy, humor, and audience engagement. She is an award-winning author and CEO of futurethink, serves as a global council member of the World Economic Forum, and has helped thousands of senior leaders ignite innovation at companies including Bloomberg, Pfizer, and Lockheed Martin. Rated as a top speaker at Google’s client events, Lisa brings her message to nearly 100,000 people each year in more than 30 countries. She wrote the bestselling book  Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution, which won the 2014 Axiom Best Business Book Award and was voted Best Business Book by USA Book News and Booz & Co. Her new book, Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters, will be released October 2016. Lisa has appeared on NPR, FOX News, and in Fast Company, The New York Times, and WIRED. She is a frequent contributor to strategy+business, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. Lisa is an adviser on the boards of the Association of Professional Futurists, and Novartis’ Diversity and Inclusion Board in Basel, Switzerland. Lisa has taught innovation and creativity at both American and Fordham Universities. For more innovation news and ideas, follow Lisa on Twitter at @LisaBodell.

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