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Taming the Complexity Beast

Our world is complicated and interconnected. It is easy for teams to get stuck in analysis paralysis or to wander aimlessly around unsure of next steps. Here are some things I have seen leaders do to help teams get started or to move forward when stuck:

1. Step back – Slow down. Try to get perspective on the issue from different angles and ensure that you have a good understanding of the problem. Sometimes the team is trying to solve the first problem encountered and is missing a more important or root cause issue.

2. Define success well – There is usually a range of what might be a successful outcome to an problem. You may not need to solve every aspect of the issue to be successful. The more specific and targeted you can be here, the easier it is to find clarity and simplicity.

3. Solve for something fast – Teams often get caught in ‘boil the ocean’ mode, trying to create totally comprehensive solutions that are impossible to implement. Emphasize fast progress, small wins, low hanging fruit, etc. Gain positive momentum and some of the problems the team is stuck on will fade away.

4. Don’t get derailed by ‘whatabouts’. What about this? What about that? Anybody can make something simple more complicated….whatabouts are a manifestation of fear. Creating contingency plans and analyzing risk is smart, not taking action because of ‘whatbouts’ is not.

5. Be persistent. Real life is complicated. It takes effort to bring simplicity, be prepared for this and don’t get discouraged when complexity inevitably rears its head. Repeat the steps, keep insisting on clarity, simplicity, and purposeful action.

What have you seen work? Do you have a team that could benefit from some of these actions?

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