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Published on: Monday, April 16, 2012

Be a Chief Simplicity Officer

Posted By: Robyn Greenspan
Filed Under: robyn greenspan, roundtable, procedures, organizational complexity


Every manager — from the CEO down — has to focus on continually reducing complexity, and this senior technology executive asked his peers in ExecuNet's General Management Roundtable how their companies were managing complexity in today's fast-changing environment.

"I recently worked for a company that was involved with too many diverse products and initiatives, using too many complex processes to simply stay in business," responded a director of operations engineering. "I believe the problem was a failure to develop a specific mission, vision and values. The company does not know where they are going because they haven't taken the time to do the market research, evaluate the competition, nor have they taken an inventory of their skill sets and core competencies. The result is a company spending too many resources in too many ventures that have little chance for long-term dividends and sustainment. Mid-level managers are left to manage the resulting chaos."

Whereas a company can get bogged down in complicated processes, this director of marketing found procedures would have been helpful, not a hindrance, where he recently worked. It was a fundamental failure in leadership, he asserted, and the organization was unfocused. "I have come to realize that such companies do not appreciate the benefits of being process-oriented and lack basic understanding for prioritizing activities across the board. It speaks to lack of competency in setting mission, vision and strategies at the leadership level, and instead preferring to 'do stuff.'"

Another ExecuNet member, who is a vice president in the electrical equipment industry, added from his experience, "Reducing complexity starts with avoiding confusion. Clarity and simplicity are top-down statements of work which must be correlated, tightly, to the company's vision. Vision is simply who are we; where are we going; and what's guiding us there. Lastly, a company culture built around LEAN Six Sigma principles will create best practice, and I've never been associated with a best practice that was a complex practice. Remember, speed kills."

How have you managed complexity in your organization?

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Robyn Greenspan's avatarRobyn Greenspan
Robyn Greenspan is ExecuNet's Chief Content Officer, where she is responsible for setting and driving the editorial content engagement strategy across the private business network's publications and expert-led programming. She is also a Huffington Post blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @RobynGreenspan

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