"Complexity Demands A Tax" - David Christian
Do you ever find yourself having to tell your team about things multiple times? Do you ever have to keep coaching on the same topic? Do you ever wonder why? Do you ever think “why are these people not getting this”?
I have a theory, well it’s not mine it can be found in the study of cosmology, biology even geology. It’s kind of a science thing. It’s the theory that all things move towards entropy.
Everything wants to break down. Always. Leave something alone and untouched, and it will break down.
Try it, leave a piece of fruit on a table for a while and come back and check on it and see how it is doing…it will break down. It’s a universal principle. Business is no different, without intervention the machine we have built will deteriorate. Now, the level of intervention we are discussing may be different, for well-oiled machines it may be as little a strategic planning session once a year or a quarter, for others, it may be a daily or hourly hands-on effort. That’s okay. It's natural.
The thing is that you can impact the amount effort and attention required.
There are two main ways to impact how much time you have to spend on combating the regression.
The first way is by far the preferred, simplify. That’s it. Simplify.
You probably see the whole business or maybe your department and understand the interplay and dependencies of all the different process you have. but this changes as you grow.
As you grow and can no longer manage everything on your own, it is widespread practice to place other people in the middle of the business and the process’ required to run your business. This addition of people certainly frees you up, but the tax you pay is first the cost of what you have to pay these people. However, there is an additional and less obvious tax that you have to pay. It is complexity.
There is a shortcut that we take as we grow, we sometimes add personnel without really looking at the process that we have “developed” to see if we can simplify them.
Truth be told we don’t “develop” our process, they tend to evolve, and in many cases, they grow to fix outliers.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Something happens, maybe something bad, in truth it could be better described as painful. We decide we don’t want to have it happen again, so we create a “process.” We get everyone together and have “meeting” about it and make sure everyone knows just how serious we are. This is fine; it can even be positive, the trouble comes as we scale. The more process we add together, the more complex we become, that complexity shows up in so many places. It is the tax we pay for not simplifying at all turns.
Adding people to handle the complexity of your business has its inherent issues. How easy is it for you to communicate a change in your organization? The more people in the chain, the more you can do but the harder it can be to communicate, It's tempting to think this is normal and preferred. I see so many companies head down this path as a way to scale. Its okay, but it is no alternative to simplifying.
It can show up in how long it takes you to onboard a new hire, ask yourself, how much different is that timeframe today than a few years ago? Can people jump into help others on the team, without knowing a lot of specialized material? Don’t get me wrong, if we are talking about brain surgery I want someone to go through a long process, but how many of us do brain surgery every day?
It can show up in frustration within your team if you don’t have a handle on that frustration it may start to show up in employee turnover.
So what's the key to moving towards simplicity, next time you are thinking of adding a team leader, supervisor or manager ask why. Ask what options you have to make the current process simpler. Ask what if I couldn’t find the right person, what if did not have the money to add this person.
You may end up adding the person, but the compound effect of organizational simplicity will pay off in more than just dollars.
Turns out we really should just keep it simple.
these are just the thoughts of someone who used to know more but now knows less...
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