When IBM conducted their biennial survey of global CEOs in 2010, they found that the biggest challenge facing leaders around the world was complexity*. Six years in and complexity is accelerating—outside and inside our organizations. If complexity is the water in which we all are swimming, what can you do to help your people swim smarter and faster?
The more we try to adapt our companies to the intricacies of the global macroeconomy, the farther we fall behind. Many organizations are struggling to adapt to the chaos caused by competiton, terrorism, ecological issues and the emergence of disruptive technologies. Yet, if we ignore the pervasive, persistent problem of complexity, we risk leaving value trapped in our companies.
KNOW • You cannot influence the scope or speed of complexity in the world at large. But you can take action to reduce it where you have influence: inside the doors of the adaptive system known as your company. Obviously, you cannot be everywhere all the time weeding out unnecessary complexity. But you can employ virtual agents to be your eyes and ears and hands.
DO • Add “bots” to your organization. Identify individuals who already love to find ways to do things better, faster and cheaper. Empower them as your Simplicity Officers to release trapped value wherever they find it.
Your job here is to focus a select number of these expert minds on simplifying (a.k.a. optimizing) your organization.
Some Simplicity Officers will be adept at effortlessly balancing where to cut costs and where to invest for growth. Let them do the analyses that reveal where and in what ways management layers can be trimmed and spans can be broadened. These are your “Organization Bots”.
Other Simplicity Officers will be process improvement experts. Set these “Process Bots” free to do their detailed, iterative work. They will get as much juice out of eliminating duplication and activities that add little or no value to results as you get out of seeing what their work does to speed up your processes.
The last set of potential Simplicity Officers may be harder to identify: their skill at improving the flow of energy in your organization can easily go unrecognized. Be on the alert for individuals who have that uncanny knack of being able to pinpoint exactly where an ineffective method, a convoluted process or a recalcitrant person are draining energy away from the work at hand. If they also consistently share success stories, spread your key messages and promote others’ innovative ideas, you’ve found one of those rare “Energy Bots”. Connect them with your Organization and Process Bots so they can share their invaluable insights into where workarounds decelerate momentum.
Working on their own and in tandem, all your Bots can increase your company’s capacity for momentum. Don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of thinking this work of simplifying is a once-and-done set of activities applicable only during Mobilization. The war on complexity requires constant vigilance. Use your Simplicity Officers to take the complexity out of things not just this quarter, but on an ongoing basis.
Want to learn more about what else successful CEOs simplify during Mobilization? Check out /move: The CEO's Playbook for Capturing Value.
* Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study, IBM Institute for Business Value, 2010. Biennial report on top issues CEOs face, gathered through face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,541 CEOs and 3,619 students from more than 100 major universities around the world between September 2009 and January 2010.