Organizations are born simple. It is their size and scale that makes them complex and complicated. Complexity causes confusion. Confusion causes chaos. And chaos leads to culmination.
Do not get me wrong. Complexity is not always intentional and bad. It is a result of the way people, the most integral part of any organization, think and act. And this is what makes organizations really wonderful entities who have a life of their own. Put the same set of people working in an organization in a different organization and the results will be different.
But complexity is not always good also. Sometimes this is what spoils the party. This is what turns great companies into good and stops the good ones from being great. Complexity causes lag in decision making and derails innovation. Ask Kodak or Nokia. Or even Sony why they missed the digital revolution bus in the music industry after they were successful with Walkman.
I believe that organizations can be simple and remain simple. It is possible if we look at organizations as a set of people (who are working in the organization) who follow processes and build products for another set of people (who are clients). An organization is fundamentally made by the people, for the people, and of the people. This is what many people do not tell us.
People form the core of any organization. And people love simplicity. Hence, organizations need to be simple.
The journey to build a simple organization is not so tough. In fact, many of the organizations of today are doing a great job already. Amazon, Google, Basecamp, Salesforce, Hilton, Workday, Cisco, Edward Jones, Stryker and many more organizations across the world are doing really great things to make organizations simple. These companies are doing wonderfully well, delivering great products (and experiences) to their customers, and are also keeping their people delighted.
Google tells that the definition of simple is easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty. This is what I would like an organization to be – for their people, partners, customers, and everyone else who cares a dime about the organization.
Simple organizations do not carry any extra baggage. They are nimble and agile. They do not do things that are not needed. Simple organizations are super quick to spot opportunities and act upon them and succeed more often than complex organizations. And they make everyone that is concerned with them, including their people and customers, delighted.
Simple organizations also have an uncomplicated selling process and an even less uncomplicated way of working. This simplicity also reflects in the products they build and the way they operate.
The ingredients for a simple organization are different. Whether it is the idea of holocracy in Zappos, decentralization in Svenska Handelsbanken, customer obsession in Amazon, no-meeting Wednesday in Asana, or having no rules in Semco, the world is full of organizations who are drifting away from the common path to make themselves very simple.
As I said, many organizations are doing amazingly great things. And they are simple. But there is always room for more. Because simplicity is not a destination. It is a journey. And this blog is dedicated to simple organizations.