Simplicity in Complexity: How Companies Remain Agile Despite Increasing Complexity

Image: g-stockstudio/
Image: g-stockstudio/

Managers, teams and employees alike face enormous challenges. What we know is that companies wanting to transform their business through digitalisation and automation must act swiftly. Effective and creative solutions are wanted in the here and now as a response to the new complexity of the business world. What we do not know, however, is what these solutions will look like en détail, since there is neither a master plan nor a blueprint to overcome the new complexity.

Transformation by the Book? Sorry, It Doesn’t Exist!

Transformation by the book remains wishful thinking, especially as the initial situation and challenges differ from one industry to another. Organisations tend to increase internal complexity when external challenges such as digital transformation arise. However, is internal complexity a veritable response to external complexity? Hardly! A vicious circle begins, in which initially valuable technical impulses are stifled by a jungle of internal complexity and thereby cannot display their valuable potential.

Instead of taking a necessary bird’s eye view on the current affairs, managers hastily initiate new organisational structures and networks within their companies with the hope of getting a grip on at least some of the rampantly-increasing complexity. If a company is likely to enter a saturated phase after a long period of success, it tends to miss out on important external developments and opportunities. The focus is on internal projects and profit maximisation instead of dealing with new challenges in the environment around them. Let’s go on a little journey through time and consider a perfect example of such a development, namely what happened with Nokia.


Phlegmatic Management Prevents Creative Solutions

For a long time Nokia was regarded as the undisputed market leader for mobile phones. Exactly 10 years ago, Apple introduced the iPhone and Android was commercialised a little later. The former market leader Nokia gradually disappeared from the scene. This development would have been foreseeable for a long time, and the main reason for failure on the whole line may have been down to Nokia’s internal complexity, as well as their phlegmatic management decisions which left little room for creativity and quick decisions. It would have been better to go along with the momentum of the new technical developments and to translate them into internal processes and structures, as well as to manage Nokia’s organisation in the slipstream of the new developments.

In order to generate sustained business value, managers should not be unsettled by sudden external forces, but rather actively seek their own intelligent solutions. As a result, internal organisational structures can be adapted to the new working environment, but on the other hand, employees and teams can also be gradually integrated into the new working world. It is probably indisputable that complex internal structures, as well as gridlocked silos within a company, are diametrically opposed to what an organisation needs in dynamic times: agility and simplicity.


Simplicity With a Focus on Employees and Teams

Simplicity in a complex world means drastically reducing down to the essentials. In a modern business culture, the inner world of the company is constantly invigorated by external feedback. This enables structures to be created where only relevant information is quickly passed on to the right places. Despite its long history, the American industry giant GE is always cited as the perfect example of how to adapt to our new working culture. The reduction of complexity is not only wishful thinking, but it is firmly rooted in the GE beliefs – it’s worth giving them a read.

In order to establish values like these within an organisation, it is important that simplification not only takes place at the macro level of the company, but also specifically involves the individual employee and saves them from receiving floods of information. The constant accessibility afforded to us by smartphones, as well as ongoing bombardment with partly irrelevant emails in the workplace leads to the feeling of too much work and ultimately excessive demands. According to a study by Deloitte, employees check their smartphone more than 150 times a day and spend a quarter of their working hours reading and responding to emails. That is the opposite of simplicity!


A Start for Companies

How can companies meet these challenges and create an agile working environment that frees employees and teams from unnecessary burdens while simplifying business processes and making them more effective? For example, a best-practice manual by BCG, to which we’ve paid a lot of attention in the development of our feedback and collaboration solution, provides guidance on concrete implementation. If you wish, we would love to show you in a personal demo session how Surwayne can support you in the process of simplifying new complexities.


Summary: Digitalisation and automation are the basic conditions that set the tone of our working environment. Globalisation and increasing competition contribute to the latent feeling of being overburdened. A clear commitment to the essentials and the reduction of complexity within your company are the first steps towards reducing uncertainties and the fear of imminent transformation processes. Be sure to survey your organisation regularly if you want to prevent opposition and make changes on the right fronts. This will mean you can reduce complexity and give your organisation a clear perspective for the future – and it can all be done with Surwayne!

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Jasmin Daneschumand

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