7 Ways to Defeat Complexity
The simplest way to get something done is do it yourself. Don’t depend on anyone. But, that’s not leadership.
New connections expand potential and increase complexity.
The result of unchallenged complexity, within organizations, is instability.
7 ways to defeat complexity:
#1. Develop shared language. Diversity is dangerous when one word means different things to people on the same team. For example, I help organizations develop coaching cultures. Success requires they have the same definition of “coaching” and “culture.”
What do you mean when you say:
- High performance.
#2. Build diverse teams. Bring customers, front-line, and top-tier people together to solve problems, create solutions, and map the path forward. You’re out of touch if everyone around the table has a “C” in their title.
#3. Pursue clarity by giving feedback.
- Rephrase what you hear to clarify what you think you heard.
- Declare what you see to be sure people see the same thing.
- Evaluate priorities to establish what matters now and focus energy.
#4. Build predictability with shared competencies. Suppose you aspire to more innovation. What are the core competencies that everyone in the organization needs to have? If it’s a coaching culture, what are the top 5 behaviors of an internal coach?
#5. Define environments in behavioral terms. How will we treat each other while we do the work? What will we do when people violate our values? Too often, culture is the result of tolerance. Passive leaders build negative cultures by tolerating bad behaviors.
Culture building requires intolerance.
#6. Connect leaders with other internal and external leaders. Elevate capacity by sharing stories of success and failure. What are we learning?
#7. Align around mission and vision. What are we doing? What aren’t we doing? Where are we going? Successful leaders lift teams out of confusion-by-complexity to reconnect with mission and vision.
What might leaders do to face escalating complexity today?
Thank you for this good summery ! I would put one additional point – be free to make experiments / encourage others to do experiments – I think handling complexity needs courage to find new ways and to have a error culture (may be you name it – “no blame organization” )
Thanks Peter. Very insightful. A “no blame organization” is a learning organization.
In the interests of reducing complexity – what does it mean to have a “C” in your title? Enjoyed the blog!
Doctor, Coach, Scientist 🙂
Thanks Dan good points. on #7 these are often over complicated and over “word smithed” they should come down to 2 or 3 simple litmus tests along the lines of – does it improve: our staff satisfaction, our customer satisfaction, our medium to longer term profitability. if the answer is yes to any one of these without negatively impacting the other I guarantee it will fit the strategy…
Your suggestion is very powerful to deal with complexity. I appreciate your suggestion to convey, connect and clarifying meaning in the same way. While this can work in many organisations, it can also produce disastrous effect. As long as people are responsible, it will produce desirous effect. But when people have hidden intention or not responsible, they might derail the project.
What I say is based on my experience. Recently I communicated message, conducted meetings and clarified all the concern about the project we were supposed to complete. In meetings, there were good discussion, people showed their interest to work, they suggested many steps. But when it came to actually delivery of work, they had excuses, questions and avoiding attitudes. Any how, I had realised much before, and had back up plan and completed the project successfully.
My point is very clear- unless people are accountable for their action, things keep on shifting from goals. Leaders need to create accountability with people. This help to create cohesion, and responsibility. So, fix accountability along with your suggested measures could be powerful measures.
Great post. I currently have two staff and they definitely have different definitions of what success, innovation and work ethic are. My energy as a leader is much more for the unmotivated to try to get them to understand the “definitions”. My frustration with this process is challenging to say the least. Progress is slow but heading in the right direction. This post will help!
Though I have a Masters degree from Penn State, I left the workforce to focus on raising my kids five years ago. Part of the reason I completely left the workforce was because my life seemed too complex and I felt I was doing everything with mediocrity. Your post about complexity helped me recognize that as I send my youngest off to kindergarten next fall, if I consider re-entering this duality of work (motherhood and part-time professional work) it feels overwhelming. But, if I stop to examine each problem or challenge in light of the seven ideas you have for demystifying complexity, I may succeed at two very separate “working” lives and better integrate myself in both jobs by acknowledging the “cultural” differences and deliberately shifting gears–not allowing their different missions to compete but to coexist with respect for both. Thank you–I’ll return to this!
I would like to add, give freedom to your team to take decisions without fear of failure. Add your value and suggestions to help them take decisions.
His will lead to more knowledge sharing and encourage people to participate and perform.
My most important approach to tackle complex systems is to throw away my analysis tools and practices away, let’s say at least every two years.
New practices bring in a fresh view even if you develop the same system for years.