It is very easy to make things complex; but is very complicated to make things easy. Humans tend to do the first thing and suffer from that, and work very hard to reach the second. Very often it is not the issue itself which gives us a headache. We as human beings tend to make things very complex. How come that projects round the globe, even reviewed regularly in project status meetings, tend to run longer than scheduled or financial targets, technical drawings are not in line with the technical specifications, budgeting processes are always on a critical path, or the year end closing process is overdue? Controlling departments administrate overtime at the end of the year, the technical project manager feels like tearing his hair out because he is not able to stay on schedule, or the sales director runs crazy, as the sales figures are not reached. Does that sound familiar to you? Is all that a coincidence?
The “problem” of communication
Over the course of my career, I worked in various industries with different international or local parent companies, diverse nationalities, on all continents, as an operational manager as well as a consultant. Whenever I had to solve these challenges, one thing stayed the same. If you try to get to the core reason for any issues, you will find the cause mostly in communication; simple communication.
In the modern world our work environment is based on the division of labor and organization, which naturally leads to interfaces. Most interfaces are still between humans and machines. And here we are! In several workshops I attended, staff members, who have been “cooperating” for years in the same company, did not have any idea what their colleague was doing and why specific information was so important for her/him. And within seconds these discussions turned to stereotypes, such as “Jack” is always this kind of critical engineer / demanding procurement guy / etc. As soon as the general mood has reached this level it is very hard to overcome it and find a new approach. Normally organizations tend to arrange themselves with the status quo.
The basic evil is that we all communicate and assume too many details. For example it is very easy to start a vivid discussion regarding costs, especially if no one explains which costs we are talking about (total costs vs. partial costs, direct costs vs. indirect costs, etc.). And that is not even mentioning the additional impact of the currency exchange rate (historical average / budgeted one / daily / etc.). But we all know what costs are, right? Or: The discussion regarding the necessary drawings during a product development meeting. You can only hope that the team is organized. Otherwise, the P&ID drawings or the electrical wiring diagram, detailed drawings or production assembly drawings are distributed to the wrong recipient.
Sometimes it helps to talk about it. This is already a key factor for reducing complexity, minimizing uncertainties and finally eliminating sources of error. It is not that difficult to start simplification.