Simplify your “complex” processes…

by Jules in Business

… and your life will get better!

I had the occasion a few months ago to deal with 2 minor business « re-alignment » that needed to be done in my team so we could stay on track with the objectives we had agreed on at the start of our on-going projects.
While chatting with the team, an idea came to my mind to try to explain that what we were doing was actually really simple.

The workplace, and more generally the labor market, has become with growth and innovation a very complex environment. With it, the entire so called “developed economies”, driven by capitalism ideals and all the ideology of economic growth, possession and money making, has slowly but surely followed the same way.

The paradox is that the “big brands” of today, those inventing the future or making your life “easier” because you are now only a click away from everything what you always wanted, those “big brands” idealizing a “connected” future have at the end created more complexity in our world.

People are not speaking to each other anymore, people are emailing, texting, facebooking, messenging, vibering, whatsapping… Companies are now experiencing “organizational socialization” through built-in internal social media application.

Imagine this little situation that could happen in any open-space in the world. Answering to your colleague seating 1 meter away from you when asking if you want to share a muffin: “Wait, let me connect on our internal social platform, I’ll find your profile there and let you know!”

Of course, this is over-exaggerated and I don’t deny the positive effects of such “inventions”, but the point I am trying to make here is that a giant paradox was born from this: we never had in history of mankind such performing communication tools as now and yet, it is becoming increasingly challenging to understand each other!

How weird is that?

But my point here is not to get into a societal / sociological debate. It would be a way too reductive and narrow-minded to associate technological progress and the incapacity of our societies to keep communities together (Mark Zuckerberg would even argue here that technology is a fantastic tool to encourage community sharing and he would be right at some point!).

No, my point here is to come back to these 2 talks I had with my teammates a few months ago and the exact same thing came twice to my mind: the world is more and more complex and companies seem to create more and more complex processes as solutions to this complexity, whereas I think that the secret of organizations’ success basically resides in simplicity.

I have the impression that complexity is nowadays considered as the norm in the business world (not necessarily you will tell me, supporting your argument with concrete examples of commercial successes from brands selling basic plastic watches or simple nylon bracelets lately). But often complexity is shown in the media as an expression of great innovative spirit and as the only recipe to success.

To be a big company, you have to be “structured”. But today, “structured” = “complex”. And if it is necessary for huge “matrix”, “decentralized”, “multinational” organizations, it is forgetting the fact that most of the companies in the world are very small.

And the other day, I got an example of bad impact of complexity in the small company I was working for.

A simple observation is good enough. We do research, we interview experts, we gather content, we spice it up, we develop an agenda, we try to invite the “crème de la crème” to deliver our awesome program and we finally simply put together business conferences. Of all sizes…

And here comes the thing: we have a production division, a marketing division, a sales division, a finance division and an operations division. We develop a product, we market the product, we sell the product, we control the results of the product and we deliver the product. Nothing complex in this. Rather common sense.

So how come was I sitting front of one of the sales guys and I have the feeling he was overwhelmed with the task he had to do, which was… selling?
And here I discovered that his mind was totally crashed by “non-existing complexity”.

Most of companies today have created in their processes “unnecessary complexity”.

I took the example of the fruits and vegetables you can find in a supermarket. Originally, what was the process in place for you to get fruits or veggies in your plate? A farmer plants a seed, takes care of it, gathers the fruit of it, brings it to a market and sells it to the client. The client is the end-user, he pays for the work of the farmer, quality of the product, taste of the fruit / veggie and everybody is happy. Complexity? Zero. Process? Straight forward. All needs are answered.

So why don’t we do the same in our everyday business life? Why do we get stuck answering 100 emails a day? Why are we creating useless intermediate processes that divert us from the core objective of our work? Why don’t we go back to the basics?

In our case, why don’t we just think that we are creating products that are the results of the understanding of a market need and try to sell them to this market that actually needs them? There is no way to convince or to push, only to understand the basic principles of this market economy we are in and to simplify our processes.

The world around us is getting more and more complex, but the paradox is that it is probably simplicity that can save us from newly created work related sicknesses that gangrene not only countries potential economic growth, but also the potential personal development of the people forming them.
So if you feel that your work is too complex, take a piece of paper and try to draw the direct line from production to market. Most of the time the drawing coming out of your mind first will be the good one. Common sense and simplicity, this is what you will learn from it. And if you don’t see what to do to make your life easier, then take some time to think of it – but don’t necessarily believe that the advice of some expert will always help you out with that, because in many cases, these experts are the partners in the complexity crime!

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