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Why Is Business Today So Complex?

Everything and everyone in business drive business leaders and businesses towards greater and greater complexity and more and more work.  As Warren Buffett has said:

There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.

But, Why?  Why are companies and business leaders stuck in the “Complexity Trap?”

1. Shooting for Perfection:  Companies have an unending passion to be the best in class in everything that the company does.  We have all heard the words: World Class, Stretch Goals, BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).  Alas, in shooting for this perfection many companies undertake a complex project or initiative that the company is just incapable of successfully completing.  In using the analogy of baseball, the company is trying to go directly to third base before they are even out of the batter’s box.

2. Complexity Sells: Many critical issues in business can just be solved by direct focus on the root cause and expert leadership to follow the simple steps to realise the goal.  But, that is nowhere near as sexy as bringing in the latest high-powered consultants or implementing the hottest, newest, and most intellectually rigorous “business solution.”  Unfortunately, top management often forgets the difficulty for the people on the front line to implement the complex solution and live with it on a daily basis.

3. American Culture / American Dream:  There is a real American trait that lauds those who achieve success through sheer hard work.  With this comes the overwhelming belief that the harder you work the more you will get done the better you will make your business.  If some is good, then more is better.  Alas, this trait often leads to excess and superfluous work to ensure that everyone is busy and working their hardest.  The question that is rarely asked is whether all the extra work is justified by improved business performance.

4. Bias for Action: Business leaders today are driven and love to work hard.  With that comes a passion for getting things done or making it happen.  As a result, business leaders have a real bias for action.  If there is nothing to be done, many times they will find something to do and then do it or (better yet) delegate and insist that it gets done by their team.  What leaders with this bias for action may not realise is that any action they take is multiplied 10 to 50 times further down in the organisation as the people to whom the task was delegated strive to satisfy the request or initiative while still doing all their other work. 

Business success does not come from more work or more complexity.  Rather, success comes from keeping things simple and focusing relentlessly on the few critical issues that need to be resolved to drive the success of the business.  To overcome the complexity trap, the watchwords need to be: simplify, eliminate, prioritise and focus.

This blog is an excerpt from David Shedd’s recently published book, Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company, now available on Amazon.com.

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