Fight Complexity with Simplicity and Agility

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"Simplify and Repeat" suggests the Economist's Schumpeter columnist, using Legos and the company that makes them as examples to emulate. I think they're on to something.

As the world becomes more complex we often try to fight increasing complexity with increasing complexity. That's a natural response.

In most of our lives effort and outcome parallel each other. Step really hard on the gas and the car goes faster. Take your foot off and the car slows down. Put more effort in and get more results. The problem is that complex adaptive systems are all around us, and they don't work that way.

Teams are complex adaptive systems. So are economies. It's hard to predict how they'll respond to a stimulus. There are too many independent actors making too many independent choices where the impacts affect each other.

If complexity is the challenge of our age, then the answer is not more complexity. It's a dynamic combination of simplicity and agility.

Keep your rules and actions simple. Define a few simple, important rules and follow them. That's the principle behind my "Elevator Speech for Bosses."

Agility rules. Keep your head up in scanning mode and react to what you observe. Agility may not be as sexy as prediction, but at least it deals with reality.

Boss's Bottom Line

The world will not get less complex, but you can improve your results if you resort to simplicity and agility.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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  • 5/1/2012 7:33 PM John Hunter wrote:
    it is often much more effort to create simple rules or a simple process. But that effort is more than paid back by the benefits of working in such a system. Complex systems create more and more instances of potential failure.
    Reply to this
    1. 5/2/2012 7:05 AM Wally Bock wrote:

      Absolutely, John. Complex and tightly coupled systems are the most failure-sensitive. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      Reply to this
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