As organisations succeed and grow they begin to face new issues and problems for managers to solve. One of the biggest issues, often unseen, is the problem of complexity.
Organisational complexity is a like an overgrown garden. Both are a result of neglect rather than design, and, although you may still be able to see some elements of the original intent, the weeds and light-hogging plants slowly but surely stunt the growth and impact of the best blooms.
A certain level of complexity is inevitable, yet many organisations make this situation far worse by living with too many management layers, fudging decision rights and accountabilities, setting unclear objectives and persisting with inappropriate projects and programmes.
Take your organization through a periodic simplicity audit and rate yourself these statements:
- We have a clear strategic intent that, in simple, everyday terms, articulates how we will succeed.
- As a management team, we have identified a handful of objectives (say, 3-6) that drive our focus and activity.
- We have crystal-clear accountabilities across the business, and managers are never concerned that they are stepping on someone else’s toes.
- Managers know exactly how to get approval for a new investment or initiative.
- In a typical week, I spend less than a quarter of my time in formal meetings.
- We have minimised the number of management layers – there is no further room for improvement.
- Our planning and budgeting process is short, sharp and effective, taking less than three months from start to finish.
- When a new programme or assignment isn’t working, it is quickly adjusted or killed – we do not allow problems to fester.
- I set my team clear objectives, but leave it to them to work out the best way forward. And they act in the same way.
- In the past six months, we have taken big strides in removing unnecessary complexity from our organisation.
Without clarity and simplicity, your projects and your people simply get stuck in the organizational swamp. So, how many of these statements can you honestly say you agree with? If it’s less than eight then, in my experience, your organization will struggle to deliver major programs of change and development.
In that case, work on each of the areas to tackle your organisation’s complexity at source. Simple!
© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.