Why Does Everything Have to Be So Complicated?

I’m a straight-shooting, pragmatic person who thrives on making the complex simple. The systems and processes I assist people with are not for my use; they are for the stakeholders daily use.

This month, I’m taking a look at business simplicity.  It’s easy to take the simple and make it complex, but, far more difficult to take the complex and make it simple.  That’s my passion.

Many companies (and, sadly, many consultants) seem to go out of their way to make things complicated.  Sometimes, I listen to people and say to myself, “What the heck does that mean?”  If you need a decoder ring, something is just not right.

The following graphic is profound in its simplicity. Take a moment and ponder it.

I wish I had created the preceding graphic, but, I did not. This visual was created by Jessica Hagy under a blog post titled “Needles and Haystacks and Such” for a blog located at http://thisisindexed.com.

Confusion is a function of how much information is available: too little information promotes confusion just as too much information promotes confusion.

I was recently involved with a Fortune 500 company and noticed that the marketing people across the enterprise were just pounding the sales people with new product and service information, new promotions, etc.  I wondered how a sales person could do their job with this constant bombardment of information. After a while, it has to feel like spam, turning people off rather than turning them on.

If I had been in sales, I’m sure I would have ignored it–it was just too much information for a person to absorb while still being able to execute their jobs. I’m certain they respond to the priorities set by their management–that would be the safer course of action.

One marketing person I knew had some 40 projects on her “to-do” list all destined to go to the same group.  I asked her if she ever sought feedback about how well the information she created was being received or assisted sales to be more successful.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  Okay, call me crazy! If you don’t seek feedback, how will you ever know?

The optimal point in this process visual diagram is where the curve is at it’s lowest point.  After that, the economic “law of diminishing returns” sets in. Incremental information promotes more confusion and overload as it is added to the mix. The challenge is finding out where the point of optimization is for the people who are expected to execute.  The best way to find that point is to simply ask the recipients for feedback.

Americans are terrible dealing with people in foreign countries who don’t speak English.  We say things louder and in a more animated voice thinking that this is the royal road to communication success.  It’s not.  The same is true with confusion and information.  Just as increasing the volume is ineffective with someone who does not speak English, more information is not more, but, actually less.

Improve business execution through simplification.  If processes or systems are not being followed or no longer serve the essential needs of the business, change and simplify them.  And, if your role is providing information, validate that the information you are publishing is serving the strategy, not confounding or adding to confusion or overwhelm.

People who are confused or overwhelmed with information are not going to be efficient or effective.

What is the best practice?  Find the balance between information and confusion.  The people using the systems and processes to do their jobs are the best judge of how well the balance has been achieved.  Consider what you can do to create simple, effective solutions.

And, certainly, don’t be shy about reaching out for help from a dispassionate third-party like me.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com


One Response to Why Does Everything Have to Be So Complicated?

  1. Sally says:

    Thanks Dave for you thoughts and you are right….we make things so damn complicated. We need to sit back and relax!!


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