Being an anti-complexificationist

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

OK, so the word complexification may not appear in your dictionary so let me define it for you:

COMPLEXIFICATION – the often sub-conscious urge to take something that was once simple, re-engineer it and produce a result that is significantly more complex than the original version. It is the direct opposite of simplification (the deliberate act of taking something complex and making it simple).

Think about your job … of course, everything seems pretty simple and straightforward to you. You can probably explain – from your perspective – why a customer needs to speak to five different people to get something done. But think about your customer for a minute. Suppose they arrived at your office and asked you to explain the process to them, particularly the bit about why they have to bounce from department to department. The only KPIs they care about is how quick and easy it is for them to “get in and get out” with a result that pleases them.

Maybe there’s a belief that consistency of approach can only occur when there is a process in place that is so rigid, so complex and so inflexible that nobody can move without reference to a set of rules and pre-defined documents (now apparently called artefacts). Maybe consulting firms have convinced gullible clients that unless the process is ridiculously complex, it can’t possibly be useful. Maybe the complexificationists are starting to take over the business world.

When the complexificationists get their way, processes become more convoluted that they need to be. People can’t possibly take in everything about the process so they just learn their little bit and operate in isolation from everyone else. We end up in a tangle not dissimilar to the knot you can see in the background image.

I worked on a project once where my functional specification document had to be peer reviewed. I’m OK with that but when I turned up at the review meeting to be confronted by 17 colleagues – yes, 17 – I was, to say the least, a little surprised. I was even more surprised when I was told that two sections of my specification were out of sequence. We would have to re-schedule the review because until I had reversed their sequence, we couldn’t possibly continue. I suggested that we could go ahead and review the document, pretending that they were in the correct sequence but was told no – we couldn’t do that. We had to follow a process that even had the sequence of document sections defined to that level of complexity, even when the document was still in draft form. You can imagine how easy (not at all) it is to re-schedule 18 people to be in the same room at the same time. I never did find out whether they re-scheduled or not – we agreed that as a devout anti-complexificationist, I was never going to enjoy being part of that project and so I moved onto a new one.

So, where do you sit on this? Are you a complexificationist or are you with me on this one? Do you get excited about the opportunity to make things so much more complex than they need to be or are you out there helping me to reduce complexity in business processes and procedures?

If you are ready to join me in the anti-complexification movement, it’s time to take action and here it is …

Your challenge for the week, should you choose to accept it, is this. Think of one thing within the scope of your job and identify the unnecessary complexities within the task or activity. GET RID OF THEM. No, that is not a typing error. GET RID OF THE UNNECESSARY COMPLEXITIES (sorry if I am shouting). Take a deep breath and de-complexify whatever you can.

Sure, you might feel like you’re letting go of a security blanket or your personal power base. It may provide some discomfort for you. But just think how much happier your clients and customers will be.

And you know what happens when they are happy …

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