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Simple Courage

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Here we go again. The big-bosses are about to launch into another unnecessarily complicated list of visions, partnered, as ever, with a condescending line on its benefits to your career.

Why do they have to make everything so complicated?

Simplicity requires imagination and courage.

It is easier to disguise a lack of talent, effort and awareness in complicated design and verbiage. It's also a great way to blame others when something goes awry: "... they didn't follow the plan!"

In my experience, there is little consideration of whether "the plan" was at fault. Fingers will be pointed towards Delivery or Operations teams. True, maybe the plan wasn't followed as intended, but dare to ask yourself, "why wasn't it?"

Perhaps, the original concept sounded great in a slick boardroom presentation, but was so perverse that real-life intervened.

As the conduit between originators and delivery is often filtered through those who job it is to pacify both sides--and protect their own credibility--complicated reasonings and justifications only add to the problem.

If you are anywhere in this chain, and thinking that this confusion works for you, then, you missed the point: your personal success is reliant upon the long-term health of the business.

Two or three years down the line when projects and profits begin to fail and senior management creeds are replaced by the next incumbents of the "vision", who will suffer most? I think you know.

Here comes the best bit; the new management team will make exactly the same mistakes, because they have exactly the same things to fear from simplicity.

Was I asleep when the 11th commandment was unveiled –thou shalt not covet simplicity?

Simplicity is not a deadly sin. Some senior-management types will wax lyrical about its merits in public whilst being the greatest offenders in private.

"You don't understand the complexities of the situation", or, "yes, a good idea, but unfortunately there are some things I can't tell you about that makes that solution unfeasible."

I am constantly amazed at the resistance to simplicity as a compelling strategy.

"I am a highly paid professional, if it was simple they wouldn't need me," seems to be the tortuous, and vaguely amusing, logic. When countered by how streamlined a rocket must be to reach the moon, they may stop to think for a moment.

Of course, the underlying technology, planning and effort to reach simplicity takes a great deal of complexity, but complexity is not what you are selling: will it reach the moon or not? You don't get much simpler than that.

Still, such ill-founded justifications are actually a turning point towards change.

However, our role should never be to condemn, but to understand and then educate.

Why is simplicity such a dirty word?

The reasons why simplicity is avoided are easily understood, but, as we discussed, It takes courage to advocate simplicity, because simplicity has nowhere to hide, and neither do those who implement it. It is almost impossible to hide mistakes in design or implementation under the nakedness of simplicity. No complicated algorithm to hide behind, and no political manoeuvrings as a shield.

Can you see the powerful influence simplicity has on individuals and the business?

We are led to believe that complicated equals smarter and better, as if there's some virtue in complexity. Not true, it is a manifestation of our fears, and only simple courage can replace it.

At the risk of being accused of presenting an oxymoron, simplicity is hard.

Simplicity is not the easy road, quite the contrary, simplicity is much, much harder. If you can advocate and deliver simplicity, then you will have the toughest "easy job" there is.

So, my question to you is: do you have the courage to do simple?

© 2023 Strategies for Work. Need some help creating or delivering your strategy? Talk to me.

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