Is your organization losing value and capacity to complexity? In this article, we provide a short framework for understanding some of the most common sources of complexity in any organization, as well as a brief discussion of how to solve them with the right culture, processes, people and tools.
I often write about simple and simplified brands, about the process leading from complexity to simplification. That is because simplification brings better outcomes and a much higher level of success (670% increased growth over competitors, according to Siegel + Gale, 2018).
However, I do not want to give you a one-sided impression, or suggest that we must eradicate all complexity.
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When managed improperly, any one of the 5 sources of complexity discussed below can infect a business and ruin user experience, customer experience, and employee experience, leading to poor satisfaction, retention and adoption. When managed properly, however, complexity can be an immense source of stability and growth.
5 Sources of Complexity and How to Manage Them
1. External drivers: regulation, policies, procedures, standards, laws
There are some things that your organization has no control over. Policy makers, public opinion, and existing rules for human safety are the key influencers here.
Short suggestion: As strict as it appears to be, pre-defined industry, sector governmental regulations, procedure and process are not always there to disturb or annoy us all. Often, they ensure humans are safe, secure, and that quality of services and products meet the standard.
- First focus on the intent, why the rule or standard was established.
- Ensure the organization adopts this must-have rule or process. Enhance communication to make clear the intent of the rule and why it is important.
- Try to design a better and easier experience for certain rules. Even if efforts are thwarted, revisit the possibility periodically. Solutions often emerge for consistent, contextual challenges. Sometimes, we can create a workaround to make the problem easier to manage if it will not jeopardize life. Avoid friction if possible.
- Because laws and the risks they protect can both have severe negative impacts on your organization, always treat external drivers with respect — from leadership all the way to every employee. This keeps them simple and clear.
Results: Regulations and laws often have good reasons to exist, especially in heavily regulated industries, such as banking, financials and pharma. Of course, we can find exceptions where these become difficult to justify. This rarely occurs when attentive leadership works to demonstrate how these externals either help the company or protect its stakeholders. When organizations can communicate consistently, they build buy-in and engagement.
2. People and perception: Adapting to different types of engagement
Satisfying 100% of people is impossible. Each of us perceives things as different levels of simple and complex due to our mind models.
Short suggestion: Develop a process that translates feedback into solutions.
- First, identify the balance in outcomes. If there are complexities that seem unnecessary, find out why they were designed or implemented in that way.
- Make sure that teams in agreement that the complexity is not solving issues as intended but aggravating others.
- Take steps toward a solution. If you cannot solve it, raise the error to your direct leadership or team.
- Identifying these sources of complexity is an incredible value, and an opportunity for the organization to improve. The fewer complexities, the more engaged employees become, the better experience an organization will deliver to its customers, partners and employees.
Results: When organizations make their products more digestible and better adapted for humans’ mind models, they demonstrate acknowledgment, customer understanding, and empathy. Falling short is still a win in many cases.
3. Human and ecosystem “behaviour”: The organization’s own leaders, procedures, processes, and rules can increase complexity
Anyone who has reported on their travel expenses for more than 10 days understands that complexities occur naturally. There are countless examples of redundant reporting, unnecessary authorizations, and tangled processes. Unfortunately, many organizations do not have the transparency to see how they are taxing employees, or how much they lose in return.
Short suggestion: As you know there are authoritative leaders and there are authoritarian leaders; there are procedures and process that make sense, and some that do not. Leaders gain value as they gain knowledge and learn how to communicate that knowledge directly to help their employees to succeed and build value. Thus, leadership needs to facilitate, provide knowledge, tools, and coach employees on how to achieve greater outcomes. Are they simplifying life and focusing on the delivery of a great experience, or not?
- What can employees do when their lead is charging rent instead of delivering real value? If you think you are being asked for unreasonable things, say something!
- The work of any leader is not to develop teams to work for him/her but to create better outcomes for the business they serve. Complexities kill human motivation when unneeded and avoidable.
Results: When workplaces build well managed employee experiences, they generate real innovation, simplification, collaboration, retention, better CX, EX, and revenue growth.
Each of the following two areas below contribute to the same outcomes.
4. Business model and culture: When complexity is built into the culture and organizational structure
The need to overcontrol, symptomized by strict rules, strict policies, and processes, can significantly challenge HR to bring on board and retain talented employees. The CEO might have trouble hiring the right leadership. These complexities only worsen as decisions and processes come closer to customers, where they limit employees from innovating, collaborating, and adding valuable ideas. The final result is poor retention, satisfaction, output and outcomes.
Short suggestion: Hire the right people; enable them to succeed in an efficient manner.
- Experience starts and ends with employees. That is why quality needs to be a key pillar. The best Customer Experience and Employee Experience cannot make up for the lack of great products, services and people.
- Hire people that you would invite to meet your family, since your success and future achievements will depend on them.
- Provide guidance, practical coaching, tools, information, insights, and the right simplified ecosystem for them to succeed.
- Hold the organization accountable for its merit. The right people, when prioritized, will help you achieve successful outcomes and growth.
- Ensure or request that your company provide the right onboarding and continuous learning programs to ensure people are as prepared and adapted as they possibly can be.
- Inclusion and diversity will help your organization. Different backgrounds generate different ideas and contribute to a diverse pool of thoughts and suggestions. The environment also drives the ability to listen and respond to customer requests.
- Care for your employees first, as you do for your family and customers. Make them feel protected and well equipped with the right tools and preparation to deliver a better experience for your customers.
5. Complex design considering all options: We all want to satisfy our customers. However, many enterprise technology companies tend to over-engineer and over-design solutions that are supposed to be easy to adopt.
Short suggestion: When on-premise solutions were the only option, we over-built a lot! As we migrate to cloud solutions, we are also learning the advantages of cloud, how flexible platforms can drive simplification, and value. Consider for a moment these related questions:
- Why are customers failing to adopt a tech solution?
- Why are customers visiting the supermarket less frequently than before?
For the last question, look deeper than Covid-19. Take the time to think about the underlying reasons.
Despite a dramatically different context, there are actually many commonalities between these two questions. Complexity overwhelms customers and employees. It turns people off and results in less adoption, fewer opportunities, poorer retention, greater dissatisfaction, and friction between your organization, customers and partners.
- Today, many companies need to take a minimalist attitude to improve their experience. Fewer options can help drive adoption by making solutions and experiences less overwhelming and easier to learn.
- Imagine you are in a physical store. You are looking at the shelf and see 20 options of the same product, all of which do the same thing. Does that help? Consider giving fewer features and fewer products to solve the same issues for your customers. Is it possible to provide fewer features in your BI, CRM, or ERP system? Would fewer choices actually help customers identify the solutions that work best for them?
- Sometimes options are a must. We need to understand this basic parameter to define a better experience and help customers to solve their problems effectively. But taking the goal of designing for adoption is helping companies like Samsung and SAP grow their user bases far more than competitors.
Read how to simplify technology products for deeper discussion of this topic
Though challenging, the process of simplification is one of the most important endeavors any organization can take to compete for customers in today’s ever-changing, unpredictable world. Some complexities are unavoidable. But when managed well, they will lead to better interactions, higher adoption, and growth.
Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment with feedback, questions or comments. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.
Next in our CX Human Lab podcast vlocast series: Lior Arussy. the founder and previous President and CEO of Strativity Group, one of the world’s leading authorities on customer experience, customer-centricity, and transformation a global thought leader, strategic consultant, and author of 8 great books, a keynote speaker. Subscribe to our vlogcast podcast page to be updated here. Or to our Blog here and services.