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The Alternative Board Blog

How to Reduce Organizational Complexity and Boost Productivity

Sep. 2, 2021 | Posted by The Alternative Board


As in our daily lives, the world of business has grown a great deal more complex in recent times. Generally speaking, every organization finds itself challenged by innovations in technology, elaborate organization processes and procedures, and the need for compliance with all relevant local, state, or federal work guidelines.

But complexity can work against productivity and negatively impact efficiency, quality and customer satisfaction. Also, mistakes or a failure to adhere to standard operating procedures can result in costly overruns and other adverse circumstances.

Often, “executives and employees accept [complexity] as something they have just have to live with, and find ways to work around it,” notes the management consulting firm Tefen. But businesses that want to remain key players within their industry “have to learn to work smarter—not harder” to overcome this challenge.

How can you reduce complexity within your organization? Here are tips:

Evaluate existing workflow systems and processes.

Now is as good a time as any to take a step back and evaluate the way things get done in your business. By assessing workflow and processes, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of those operational areas where complexity serves as an obstacle to production, rather than benefiting it.

Indeed suggests that you “list your processes and workflow in the most simplistic terms” by writing down “what you believe the benefits of each process is and list each person involved in the process.” A simple exercise like this can often pinpoint internal bureaucratic or operational hurdles that may have escaped notice up until now. Looking closely at these factors helps clear the way to “de-complexify” your organization.

Aim for user-friendly processes.

When grappling with complexity, the goal is producing accurate information about workflow and processes so that they are more easily understood within the organization. Of course, different departments and teams will have different objectives, so be sure key details are added (in stand-alone sections) so team members can easily locate the information most relevant to their job responsibilities.

Encourage team members to offer insights into complexity reduction.

In general, business owners and CEOs have a limited sense of just how complex their business might have become. They’re not exposed to the daily operational hurdles faced by, say, a front-desk person or someone on the assembly line.

To meet this challenge, Forbes advises leaders to avoid situations where employees are reluctant to challenge complexity revolving around “unclear assignments, unnecessary emails, over-analysis, or other bad managerial habits.” Instead, encourage team members to speak up in ways that “keep your colleagues (and yourself) honest about personal behaviors that might cause complexity.”

Want additional insight? Read 10 Tricks to Make the Most of your Time now


Build a culture of simplified processes.

Things don’t always have to be complicated. Processes and workflows can be simplified if the will to do so is there. Business leaders can move the company closer to this objective by instilling a culture of simplified processes. In such a culture, the individuals who “own” a process should have the authority to reduce complexity wherever they can.

“Process owners need to know they have the right to try—and sometimes fail—in their efforts to improve and innovate,” notes CIO. The freedom to make changes must be encouraged from the top down, so that no one feels their job is on the line when they work towards reduction of complexity.

Learn more about instilling a culture of efficiency and simplicity. Register for our free TAB Boss Webinar, “Organizational Culture – Fundamentals for Business Owners.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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