"It is Complex” is an Excuse for Poor Management 

"It is complex" begs the question to what degree poor management introduce complexity into an Organisation due to poor knowledge of the business.

“Insecure managers create complexity”. These are the words of Jack Welsh. “It is complex” is often a sign of poor understanding of how a business operates.

If I may add to your statement Mr Welsh, I would venture that “Complexity is a relative perception based on manager’s poor knowledge of their business.” I am tempted to write that there is no such thing as complexity just complex managers, but this may be a step to far for now.

If I may add to your statement Mr Welsh, I would venture that “'It is complexity' is a relative perception based on manager’s poor knowledge of their business.” I am tempted to write that there is no such thing as complexity just complex managers, but this may be a step to far for now.

In these paragraphs I am writing about the complexity experienced within an organization, of which a typical symptom is slow and poor decision making.

Often the words “It is complex” is an excuse of, or pointer towards, poor management. It provides a smokescreen in an attempt to hide how little is known about the business and the factors or variables that impact performance.

“It is Complex” is often a modern-day corporate illness caused by a strong internal focus and working within silos. It is based on the belief that when one tightly controls (tightly here being the polite description, it is often either ‘over-control’ or the opposite ‘no-control’) internal elements that it would translate into the desired results. This is reinforced by micro management and the over use of controls. The end result is a massive loss in flow of information and material and thus efficiency suffers.

Paradoxically, complexity is a sign of lost control and incorrect management focus.

Another cause of complexity is that management simply do not know how to cope with increasing uncertainty of a dynamically changing environment. They are stuck in a time warp of using techniques and methods that may have worked in the ‘good old days’ but no longer apply.

From the above brief discussion some questions. Is the answer “simplification”? Is there an optimal balance between “complexity” and “simplicity”? Or do we need to look closer at the source and find the right questions to answer.

When you hear the words “It is complex”, pause a moment and evaluate whether this is indeed so, or whether it is a case of poor management. Use these questions as a guide to get to the bottom of it:

  1. What is your organizations ability to distinguish between distracting “noise” (most often the cause of complexity) and the factors and variables that make a real difference?
  2. Is your organizational structure delayered (flat) and empowers everyone to make decisions whether the work happens?
  3. How simple or standardized is the bulk of your offering? How broad or deep is your product or service range?
  4. Are you truly delivering what the customers wants, or are you still basing your standards on old out dated information or beliefs? Are you delivering the appropriate functions and quality, or you still striving to offer only the highest, whether the customer wants it or not?
  5. How well are process known across the entire value chain? Are your core processes mapped and the key variables and factors monitored?
  6. Are your measuring the performance outcome / output of your processes and is it know, in real time, to all involved?
  7. How true and accurate are the facts and data your management make decisions with? Or do they hesitate and delay decision making because of an uneasy feeling fueled by a lack of evidence, or poor data quality and analysis techniques? How often are decisions based on subjective interpretation?

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