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Complexity Crisis

“They asked us to automate 92 reports for their company. They didn’t even have 92 employees”.

I heard this personal account from the president of a successful computer service company. We were standing in the hallway discussing our shared observation that mid-level managers are feeling run over and run down by the extensive reporting being required in today’s high tech business environment.

Managers are being told that their job is to grow the business and develop people, but they can hardly find time to do their job. In many organizations the majority of work days are spent attending meetings, writing reports or justifying the report written yesterday.

It appears to me this complexity crisis is often driven by executives who are armed with unlimited report formats and analysis at their finger tips. They act as if not utilizing every reporting possibility is akin to conserving ammunition in the heat of battle, when just the opposite is true. In an effort to respond quickly to the pressure to expand profits, create new products and implement new procedures and systems, some leaders may be unintentionally stifling the bottom line.

This challenge seems to have existed for a while. Peter Drucker wrote about complexity concerns in his classic 1963 Harvard Business Review article “Managing for Business Effectiveness.” John Mariotti, in his 2008 book The Complexity Crisis, says executives face the same complexity issues. Drucker’s answer 45 years ago was the need for “clarity of focus”. Mariotti’s solution today is to simplify. Marriotti says effective leaders need to focus on doing three key things, but I am very tired of all these 3 key formulas. So I instead decide to offer you a quote of business wisdom of Robert Townsend, author of the timeless book Up the Organization.

“If people are coming to work excited… if they’re making mistakes freely and fearlessly… if they’re having fun… if they’re concentrating on doing things, rather than preparing reports and going to meetings then somewhere you have a leader.”

Working Journal Entry: Is there any complexity you can eliminate? How would getting rid of this help simplify your world, sharpen your focus and possibly multiply your influence in your leadership and life?

PS- If you just must know Mariotti’s 3 step formula, email me your request and I will send you the points and paragraph I cut from this article – so you can sleep peacefully tonight.

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