Complex versus Complicated

Business is often, by its very nature, complex. TransForm has clients that have seemingly endless moving parts, which operate 24/7 in every time zone in the world, and whose employees and vendors come from every corner of the world. The challenge for all of them is that, despite complexity, the endeavor to continuously improve is essential if thriving versus just surviving is the ultimate goal.

This is where making a distinction between complex and complicated is imperative. Whilst complexity for a business might be intrinsic, complications are the outcomes of people developing policies, processes and procedures in isolation. The needs being met are narrowly focused and primarily inward looking.

In other words, jumping through hoops, red tape, or whatever other metaphor is used to describe the stumbling blocks for getting things done, is most often the result of “rules” being established that are self-serving and disconnected from what the company is ultimately endeavoring to achieve – satisfied customers and sustained growth.

It is, in fact, an indictment of the failure to be expansive and inclusive in strategic and tactical thinking. One of TransForm’s key partners, Sue Stanek, describes her relationships with colleagues as: “You make my life really easy,” or “You make my life really difficult.” We hear that sentiment expressed between departments and divisions of organizations consistently.

So here’s the “rub.” Whilst it is not always possible to make life really easy for our colleagues, making life easier, or as less complicated as we can, needs to be the intention of each and every leader and employee. If our goal is to create a seamless experience for the customer, we must ensure we are doing all that we can to build a similar experience internally.

To begin moving layers of complication from what is already complex, groups and individuals first need to be educated or reminded that they all play on the same team. Everyone has a purpose. Each has roles. Ultimately, all team members have the responsibility to serve each other in a way that ensures the goals of the organization are achieved.

So where do you start? Here are five ideas:

  1.  Ensure all employees understand, and are aligned behind, the purpose of your business – creating and keeping customers.
  2.  Cast aside job descriptions. Focus on purpose – what contribution can each individual make that will most impact team and organizational success?
  3.  Connect with colleagues in other departments. Ask: What gets in the way of performing at your best? How may we influence those challenges for the better?
  4.  Discuss the feedback and be courageous in examining every process, policy and procedure. (Some, of course, will serve an important purpose.)
  5.  Install this question in every meeting: How is what we are about to do serving the success of our colleagues and company?

“Life is at its very best when it’s shaken and stirred.” ~F. Paul Facult

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About David McNally

David McNally, CEO & President of TransForm Corporation
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