In his book Simplicity, Edward de Bono, one of the World’s greatest experts on thinking, outlines his case for simplicity.
He believes that complexity is always failed simplicity.
Simplicity, he states, is not always the natural state, you have to make it happen. And that might require change.
Just because something has endured doesn’t mean it is the best way to do things now. There may be a better, simpler way.
The lazier a person is, the more likely they are to find the simpler solution. Henry Ford employed lazy people in his plant as they could find the most efficient manner of producing a car and the result was an efficient production line.
But unless simplicity is set as a priority, it will not be ‘built in’ to any solution.
There is an elegance in simplicity that is appealing and often cost effective. For example, software that is too comprehensive is too complex. Only a fraction of the functions of Microsoft Office are used by the majority of users and so lower cost, less comprehensive solutions, such as Google docs can thrive.
Recognising that complexity also generates waste, the Lean Six Sigma movement looks to remove all waste and only undertake processes that add value. These are often the most simple solution.
Edward de Bono has a passion for simplicity and as always, his research is comprehensive and his conclusions are well supported, resulting in 10 rules for simplicity.
His rules are:
- You need to put a high value on simplicity – Very few people do this. We look for simplicity only when the complexity to difficult to manage. If a task is within our skill level and not too taxing, we will not look too hard to make the process more simple, despite the value that simplicity can add.
- You must be determined to seek simplicity – The value of simplicity is something that you need to actively seek. We generally like simplicity when it costs us nothing or when it is free to implement. There are are however savings to be made in implementing simplicity.
- You need to understand the subject matter very well – You need to be very clear about what you are trying to do. You need to understand the values, processes and outcome involved. If you don’t understand the system fully, you may end up with a simplistic result rather than just being a simple solution.
- You need to design alternatives and possibilities – Design is critical here to find alternative methods to achieve which are both effective and simple.
- You need to challenge and discard existing elements – Challenge everything. Everything needs to justify its continual existence. Systems and operations have a natural tendency to grow complicated. if you can’t justify it being there, then shed it!
- You need to be prepared to start all over again – It can be very tempting to modify an existing structure rather than build from scratch. The more difficult and expensive the system, the less people want to scrap.
- You need to use concepts – Concepts are useful for simplifying complexity. They provide the first stage of setting the direction and purpose. Concepts are designed to be vague, however, after setting the direction, you must get specific to simplify the system.
- You may need to break things into smaller units – Complex systems work best when they are broken down into sub-systems. Smaller is inherently simpler.
- You need to be prepared to trade off other values for simplicity – Comprehensive can mean complex. Simplicity may require you not look for comprehensive solutions to ensure what you get is as simple as possible.
- You need to know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed – Users? Owners? Customers? Simplicity is a trade off. To make something simple for one stakeholder might make it more complex for another.
Consider these rules when you are crafting a solution or as part of a business process improvement project. Simplicity gives you an elegant and often friction free solution which sounds like something to aspire to.
Dare to Aspire
Individual and Team performance can be elusive.
Just when you have achieved a level of performance that you want, the environment changes, resources are taken away or members of the team are replaced.
It is a combination of knowledge, skills and attitude that creates individual and team behaviour. Improving performance therefore requires us to change that behaviour
Training is a excellent way to re-establish a high level of performance, but it needs to be training focused at achieving specific individual and business needs.
Performance then, is where knowledge, skills and attitude align to the business needs. So any training plan needs to be focused on ensuring that an individual’s knowledge and skills are developed to align to that business need and people motivated to having a supportive attitude.
To establish the necessary training for the individual and teams a level of Training Needs Analysis is needed. This ensures the maximum level of training is achieved for minimum financial outlay.
Here is a checklist that will help you consider the training needs of your team and help you construct a training programme that will help you re-establish the performance levels you need to have your team thrive.
1. The Training Need:
- Who needs it?
- What is the business area that the training will support?
- Is the skill or knowledge lacking on the team or just in this individual?
2. The Audience:
- Who is the audience for the training?
- What is their knowledge of the topic?
- What are their duties?
- What are they expecting?
- Are there any motivational problems to be expected?
- What is the cultural behaviour for the target group?
3. Course Content:
- Are there any regulatory parts to teach?
- Is there a CIPD or other professional body to consider?
- What are the possible resources?
- Are there policies and procedures to teach?
- Are case studies of value?
- Will it be an internal course?
- Who will teach?
- Will you outsource?
- When is the training opportunity?
- Start Dates?
- Length of course?
- Frequency of the training?
6. Business Needs:
- What is the business need?
- What is the business strategic aim?
- What are the organizational future plans?
- How much training is enough?
7. Anticipated Problems:
- Budgetary limits
- Availability of the learning team
- What resources do you need?
While this is not a formally structured Training Needs Analysis profile, it provides a useful list of considerations that will help you understand your training needs and so allow your to decide on where to spend training effort to achieve a higher level of performance.
Dare to Aspire
Change management is possibly one of the most difficult tasks that a manager or management team can attempt. More often than not, these managers will bring external consultants in to support the change process. But having an awareness of the common approaches and “Best Practices” can help you understand the scope and magnitude of a change project and give you options to consider when planning your change.
Here are some elements of ‘Best Practise’ I have encountered:
- Recognise the need to change and ensure that you articulate that need in a compelling way, demonstrating that not changing would be catastrophic.
- Start with and maintain senior management and executive level support, to demonstrate that the change initiative is a company wide commitment and a strategic level project, garnering the full support of the companies resources.
- Understand the organisation’s ‘readiness to change’ as change can be emotionally disturbing to both the staff and the shareholders.
- Communicate effectively to create buy-in. Then communicate some more. Use all of the communications channels that you have access to. You must create an level of understanding, involvement and commitment from your personnel.
- Instil a feeling of ‘readiness and commitment’ to sustained change and help people see this as a process that will allow the organisation to adapt to future environmental conditions.
- Create change teams that demonstrate the characteristics of the new organisation, generate some high profile quick wins and so demonstrate the benefit of the change. This will communicate the benefits of the change more dramatically than any speech and will create a level of momentum for the change process.
- Use a structured framework. A change framework will give you structure around which to create the change and give you a mechanism to justify your actions to the budget controllers and senior managers
- Consultants do have a part to play as you can use them to supplement your team and so your organisation can continue to be productive during the change process. Aim to use consultants effectively, having them do what you want them to do. Avoid employing a large consultancy and have them ‘doing’ change to you according to a boilerplate solution that neither discriminates you from other organisations nor exploits your unique characteristics for best effect.
- Pay attention to what has worked before in other environments, not to copy them wholesale, but to identify what might be beneficial and so you can exploit what you learn piecemeal. This will need to be within the context of a ‘systems’ approach as you will be influencing other parts of the organisation with any change you make. Consider the impact as part of the planning discussion.
- Ensure your changes link to your corporate strategy as your strategy will define how you will apply your resources and people to create value in the current future economic environment. Your processes will need to align to this strategy and be as efficient as possible.
- Listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ as they are the people that should benefit most from the changes you are implementing. Ask the question, is this adding value for the customer and aligned to our mission. South Western Airlines aim to be the cheapest low cost airline and so their Value to the customer is in being cheap. They change nothing that doesn’t ensure that they remain lowest cost budget airline. Simple.
- Select the right processes for reengineering as not everything will add value to your vision, mission and customer. Use the 80/20 rule to identify the processes that will add most value when changes
- Maintain Focus on what you are trying to achieve. A man with 10 priorities has no priorities. Don’t try to reengineer too many processes at once. Pick those processes that will add most value, be easiest to change and so garner the momentum we discussed earlier.
- Maintain teams as the key vehicle for change as they are mutually supportive, innovative and provide a level of ‘corporate memory’ even if members of the team move or leave.
- Choose and use the right metrics for measuring the performance of both the current process and to assess the future process and so quantify the benefit of any change. Again this benefit will then become tangible and so communicate value for you.
- Understand risks and develop contingency plans ad nothing you plan will follow the plan from start to finish. Understanding the risks and reviewing them frequently will help you keep an eye on the issues that will have a negative impact and so prepare for them.
- Have plans for, and communicate a need for an attitude of continuous improvement. The environment is constantly changing and you and your organisation will need to flexible enough to adapt to those changes.
These points are not exhaustive but are presented a considerations for anyone thinking of implementing a change event.
As a general guidance for any planning, what you are aiming for is:
An organisation that has a strategy that is making best use of resources in the current and short term future environment, employing efficient processes that exploit the talents and strengths of you team and add most value to the customer and shareholder.
Easy to say…not so easy to do…
Dare to Aspire
The pace of change in the business domain is frantic. Look around and you will quickly see changes in the Political arena, in Economic and Sociological dynamics, in Technological innovation and increasingly the Environment. the combined impact from these changes can be dramatic for any organisation.
As Leaders and Managers, we adapt to these changes by attempting to predict the long term business landscape and then adapting our strategy and operations to be more effective under those conditions.
We then attempt a change process that aim to adapt the organisation into a structure and with processes that are more likely to produce target outcomes given these predicted conditions.
Unfortunately, even if we manage to achieve the planned changes, we often find that there can be insufficient ‘stickiness’ for those changes to endure and there can be a general slip back to the way things were.
Here are 6 tips to maximise the chances that your change programmes will endure:
1. Link your changes to a vision that reflects the purpose of the organisation:
- Why does the organisation exist (other than to make money for the shareholders)?
- How does this change achieve that purpose?
Answer these questions and make sure they are well understood throughout the organisation. Make the reason for change as compelling and memorable as a jingle from a commercial.
2. Have everyone play a role in the decisions for the change:
- Involvement generates a degree of commitment to the change process.
- Involvement in the change process means that individuals will feel the loss if it fails and so are more motivated to ensure it works.
- Involvement in a successful project lets the team say ‘look what we have done’ with a feeling of pride and commitment to the future of the organisation.
3. Recognise that change can be frightening for some people:
- Some personality types change in an instant and are happy to work in the new structure at a moments notice.
- Change can, however, be unsettling and some personality types don’t react well to any kind of change. Ensure that you help them through the change process and bring them along. The new state will soon be accepted as the norm and these people will thrive again.
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:
- Use every communication channel open to you and ensure that the message resonates at all levels and from all of the key people. There must be a single message about, what, when, how, who and WHY!
- If the team don’t have questions, then they don’t yet understand the level of impact the change process is likely to have, so ask them questions and get them thinking about the change, after all involvement creates commitment!
5. Positive reinforcement generates momentum:
- If you see someone acting in a way that supports the new order of things, take the opportunity to give them positive feedback.
- If you see someone acting in the old ways, then coach them into the new patterns and then praise them when they are supporting the new order of things.
- Positive feedback reinforces change, any change.
6. Have descriptive and clear measures of performance:
- Feedback is the breakfast of champions!
- Clear feedback that shows how the new structure and process is adding more value than before increases the chance that the change will stick.
- If people associate the change to a positive outcome on a company level (eg. profit) and a positive outcome on a personal level (eg. I keep my job!) it is more likely to stick.
These tips will not guarantee that your change process will yield an enduring new strategy or supportive structures and processes, but they will support the change effort in very compelling way, stacking the odds in your favour.
Dare to Aspire