Simplify: Test

We're talking here about what it takes to equip your company for growth. Specifically, in this session, how to simplify. Today we're talking about the first factor in simplification; the importance of testing, test test test.

F. Scott Fitzgerald has an example of a test. He said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Personally, I think paradox and being comfortable with it, is ‘part and parcel’ of being a good leader. But it is a good example of a test. Test and see as they say.

The frustration here is that if we don't test things, they just multiply. Processes and systems become more complex and organisational culture becomes more bureaucratic. It literally gets harder to do things almost by natural order. All things trend toward disorder. More specifically, the second law of thermodynamics states that “as one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase (or at least stay the same).” ... Energy disperses, and systems dissolve into chaos. It’s so true for our organisations as well.

It takes an intervention in order to simplify, and you need to test in order to simplify. I've lost count of the number of organisations that I've helped and challenged along the way whose response has been, “but we've always done it that way”. Maybe there should be a firing offence attached to that statement. If you're doing the same things today as you did yesterday, you will ultimately fail.

In the absence of simplicity, complexity reigns. We have to keep asking why why why and test test test. What we want is simple efficiency and no constraints to growth.

If we get this right then constraints are reduced. Simplicity increases efficiency and productivity. If we don't do this well, then complexity and bureaucracy will win. And believe me we are in the war against such things if we want to grow.

The principle here is to test for simplicity. Ask, “why do we do what we do”. Ask “do we need to do what we do?”

One of Apple’s and Steve Jobs’ drivers of success was simplicity and the application of it. You can still pretty much put all the products Apple produce globally on a single large table. Out of that simplicity of product, interface design and usability has come one of the largest companies in the world.

At Gloria Jean’s Coffees we had a store compliance list of over 100 items. We tested by complex outcomes. The result was low compliance and one significant frustration. We then consulted with the Franchise Partners and asked what really drove success and simplified down to literally 10 drivers; and monitored those. We then re engaged in a more positive manner, to test it again. The outcome; more engaged franchise partners, more compliance and finally sales growth.

Where is your most complex area? What is your most frustrating process or area seen as just heavy-duty compliance? Do you really need it? Really need it? If you do, really do, then at least make it simpler and communicate why. Test it; will it break. Test it; can it be better? Test it: do we need it? Test it: can we simplify it. Test and simplify to equip your organisation for growth.

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