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Keep it simple, stupid!

After years of continuous improvements, quality initiatives, product launches, marketing promotions, organization restructurings, management promotions/transfers, strategic change, and all the myriad ‘stuff’ that gets done to a business, many lose cohesion and suffer from complexity, bureaucracy, and confusion. In an article deserving a wider audience, CIO Magazine looked at addressing complexity in very large organizations. Their suggestions also apply to mid-size businesses, which often fall into the trap of using bureaucracy to cope with growth:
  • Include simplicity as a theme of the organisation’s strategy.
  • Simplify the organisational structure.
  • Prune and simplify products and services.
  • Discipline business and governance processes.
  • Simplify personal patterns (meetings, comms, etc).
One of my key tools is ‘lean thinking’. This isn't a ‘by the numbers’ process methodology; the best lean thinking requires a different state of mind, not a methodology. Some organisations just don’t get it, but for the ones that do, the results can be amazing. Don’t try to do everything at once. After much trial and error, I’ve found a cyclical approach works best:
  • Stabilise: Get the organisation under control, fix any red ink and major pain points.
  • Simplify: Get your market offer tight and then organise to only do the stuff you need to make and deliver that offer.
  • Develop: New or improved processes, products, markets, skills, etc. that fit your market offer. with an emphasis on simplicity.
  • Grow: When they’re working, ramp them up.
  • Repeat.
First published 11 February 2008.