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The complexity of simplification

5 Aug, 2016

complexityWe are all dealing with some level of complexity in our daily activities. Some of it is necessary to maintain an efficient environment for our employees and collaborators or to provide our clients and customers with the outcome they have come to expect.

Unfortunately, we are also composing with unnecessary complexity that slows us down, create confusion and/or increase frustrations.

Understanding the complexity in your organization will put in prospective the areas most likely to benefit from improvement … in a way, identifying the 20% that will have the 80% positive impact on the overall business operations.

Simplifying should be simple right?  May be not. Here’s some facts you should take into consideration when considering business process simplification.

First and foremost, simplification should not be considered as a one-time project, it is a rather a journey leading to cultural transformation.  For that, endorsement from the executives is paramount to rally the organization around this exciting opportunity.

Some may think that the path to simplification is standardization. Beware, extreme standardization may become a roadblock.  Standardization lead to cost savings, but on the other hand it may cause a loss of responsiveness to potential opportunities.  An optimized, yet flexible standard process should include measures to accommodate “out-of-the-ordinary” or “urgent” situations, while keeping the appropriate level of internal controls to remain within manageable risk levels.

Be careful not to solve an issue by creating new ones.  How is this possible? It can happen if you are not vigilant with the handoffs between processes.  You may simplify all you want, if you are not sensitive to what and how to handout the output of your process to the other processes inside or outside the organization, you may just end up creating complexity elsewhere.

Do not overlook why the process was implemented in the first place.  Understand clearly how the process adds value to the mechanics of making strategic decisions in your organization. You may be surprised of what you find.  Sometime a process is designed to meet an immediate or specific need and somehow remains in place way longer that it should.  You can only differentiate facts from fiction by looking at the big picture and using a lot of “why” along the way!

Do not look for an instant solution. Sustainable process simplification takes time and involves many elements.  Optimizing the process itself constitutes the core of the undertaking; however, It will not work if your employees do not endorse it.  For this you must also think about training/coaching them, ensure the policies and procedures are updated to reflect the changes you implemented, align the tools and systems to support it and most importantly provide the means and mindset to keep “recomplexification” at bay.

Softwords offers the experience and expertise to guide you through your process simplification undertakings in order to deliver the savings you are expecting.

Author: Manon Chouinard, Principal Partner, Business at Softwords Consulting inc.
manonchouinard@softwords.ca