Monday, December 18, 2017

In search of simplicity in your organization – 5 Questions to ask

May 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured Posts, Work

A few months ago, in the aftermath of Steve Jobs passing, when all you could read about was what Steve Jobs said/did/was/ate/slept/created/made/designed etc., I came upon this Jobs-gem that so captivated me that I wrote it on a 3” x 5” card which I keep on my desk beside – what else?  My Macbook:


“Simple can be harder than complex.  You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”


Simplicity – the bane of management.  So absent in organizations, so vilified.  To be simple is to be considered less intelligent, incapable of higher-order thinking. Complexity indicates intelligence, brilliance, smarts, and uniqueness.  Management designs complex solutions because – well, if things are too simple, is management needed?  So, much time is spent creating complex solutions and calling in consultants who invariably recommend even more complex diagnoses and prescriptions, couched in the most complex of language that then needs more consultants to decipher.  Meanwhile, staff sits wondering why management is so stupid – can’t they see that the simple answer is right under their nose?  And customers leave, befuddled and frustrated by the complexity of the service “solutions”.


As a strategy facilitator, my task is to make things EASY for my clients (root of facilitator is Latin “Facile” – to make easy).   Easy invariably means simple.  My never-ending quest is to wend through the clutter of the complex to reveal the simplicity, the elegance, and the ease of the solution.


On reflection, I was destined for this.  My mother would always accuse me of being lazy, as I wanted the easy way out.  When I started managing companies at 23 years old, my quest was always to find the easier way to do things.  The true test came many years ago when I had just hung out my shingle as a consultant.  I was contracted to help a group of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) develop their strategic plans.  These ENGOs were groups of community members, fishermen, craft vendors, and farmers.  The most intelligent, well-meaning and committed people you could ever find, but also the least educated and literate.   In the complex world of international donor funding, despite all of these, they needed strategic plans to access donor support.  My challenge was to take them through a process that would develop strategic plans that were reflective of their dreams and aspirations, were usable tools for them to guide their NGOs but complex enough to satisfy the donor agency.  Happily, I achieved both.  I have been able to take this simple approach to the most complex organizations in the public and private sectors and have it work like a charm.  You can hear the sigh of relief – “That was much simpler than I thought it would be”.


As a leader, make a commitment to simplicity.   Here are five questions to ask yourself about your organizational systems, policies and procedures that will help you to simplify the complex:


  1. Is this relevant to your organizational objectives, or is it some holdover from the past?
  2. Is this necessary? If we didn’t have this policy/procedure, would it make any difference?  Would anyone miss it?
  3. Does this add real value to our clients, staff, regulators or shareholders?
  4. Does this confuse or bring clarity to your customers and staff?
  5. Is this easy or difficult to explain?  (Can you explain it to an uneducated but highly intelligent fisherman or farmer?)



5 Responses to “In search of simplicity in your organization – 5 Questions to ask”
  1. Audrey R says:

    So true Marguerite, our fears in many instances cause us to complicate the issues. Following the Nike slogan and ‘Just do it’ can be very difficult!

  2. Donette Chin-Loy Chang says:

    Marguerite thanks for this…needed at this time. If only we could leave the egos behind and keep things simple.

  3. Marguerite Orane says:

    The ego is the bane of simplicity … and simplicity is the bane of the ego. You are so right – leave the egos behind. But can we? Let’s just start by being aware ….

  4. Stormy says:

    First off I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I’ve
    had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally
    lost just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any recommendations or hints? Appreciate it!

  5. Marguerite Orane says:

    Thanks for the comp! A quiet moment, deep breaths and then just start writing – I can edit and clean up after.