There’s a huge opportunity – and a way – to increase productivity, innovation, and employee engagement by removing things that distract and soak up time and energy… as author Jesse Newton demonstrates in his book “Simplify Work”.
GoPro, Apple, Lego, and IBM went from top to hitting bottom, mired by a high degree of complexity in their strategy and operations. For example, following its IPO in 2014, GoPro went from 700 to 1,600 employees in 18 months and was working on 30 new TV series and a number of new products at the same time…
It turned out to be a disaster and management recognized that they were spread too thin, lost their focus, and became the opposite of the nimble entrepreneurial company they used to be. The solution in all cases has been to simplify by going back to basics.
Complexity is holding companies back from peak performance
It’s no accident that most of today’s companies are too complex… we’re running businesses with theories that are offspring of the last industrial revolution. The idea had been: how to exert control over growing organizations. To do that, you had to create silos, strict hierarchies, and stringent rules. The result was that you could monitor employees, but they were reduced and confined to low-value work.
But in the current environment, to remain on the cutting edge, you HAVE to empower your people… to use their full intellect, creativity, and initiative. Low-value activities are commoditized and should be automated or outsourced. If your teams are bogged down by byzantine rules for travel expenses and back-to-back pointless meetings, how can you remain competitive?
How to simplify
So how can you simplify? First, clarify your purpose, which is the same as crystallizing your vision or simplifying your strategy. Often, companies try to do too much. They diversify into different products and geographics. And end up losing focus, diluting their identity, and confusing not only their customers but their employees too!
Next, organize your operational activities and what you’re trying to achieve. What are you doing today as a company? Can you identify common themes so you can group activities together?
And finally, reduce – that’s the key to simplifying. You have established a clear strategy, analyzed and grouped your activities, and now you can prioritize them so you can reduce. Like properly trimming a Bonsai tree, you want to make sure your company is focused on core activities, constantly prioritizing and pruning those that veer away from your strategy.
When you strip our complicated processes, you’ll see higher engagement levels, increased quality of work because employees will spend time on things that matter instead of navigating arcane systems, and your teams will be able to react to market changes much faster, as companies like Amazon and ING have proven.
There’s a better – simpler – way to run your business. And it’s all about: clarifying purpose, organizing activities, and prioritizing so you can simplify.