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Simplicity on THE OTHER side of Complexity

In the meantime we all are not only aware but we almost familiar with the developments in Greece and other European countries. Let’s stick with the example of Greece for a while. The reason for that economical crisis was basically the politics that has build a system that has been massively exhausted the local economy and financial health of the country  in general. Greece as a country might have been able to survive under this circumstances and in that environment for a

longer period of time when it wouldn’t have become a member of the European Union (EU). But the local system became influenced by new rules, regulations and implications of another, a higher level system, called EU. The order that worked for the country itself so far, got undermined by requirements for which it wasn’t built. The logical consequence would have been to undertake tremendous changes e.g. financial cuts for the way the country should be operated. The behavior of the government pro those changes has created lots of really bad turbulences inside the country and in particular with the Greek citizens. For sure, if somebody would come across and would us „small people“ take something away that we were used to have, then we likely would also not simply accept that. In particular not, when the reason for those cuts would not have been in our responsibility. However, even though I do have a certain understanding for the Greek citizens I don’t want to talk about that here.

The point I like to make is: Why is it as it is and how could it get there? One of my personal assessments is that the systems we’re dealing with in our today’s world are far too complex. Too many interests of too many interest groups are causing too many compromises that have been arranged by too many people representing not only the interests of communities and societies but also their own. As that sentence is definitely too complex for a clear and proper communication as it is with our systems! And if the complexity reaches the threshold of an, I would call it „easy manageability“ then those systems fail. That’s not only happening in politics but also in business and in other communities.

However, how to avoid complexity or vice-versa how to dissolve complexity? This is a very important question, as we all have to deal with that question every day while trying to find new customers, new partners and new solutions. Let’s start looking at complexity itself but I don’t do it scientifically: Nothing on this planet has been complex by nature. Everything whether it is in the nature or in the society has been simple in the beginning and was only becoming more complex by a changing environments or changing surrounding circumstances. If we look at politics and consequently on the business aspects than complexity has been created by human beings. Not a big finding! At a certain point in time, some people call it the start of the civilization, human beings started to create rules and laws in order to structure the society they were involved or living in. This is true from society to society, hierarchy to hierarchy and region to region. The problem is that once somebody started to structure the environment that is the closest to him then somebody else came across who aimed to have more than him or wanted to have it differently and started to influence, to adjust or even to change the structure that has been build before. They either achieved to compromise or even to change what has been agreed on prior to that. All for the sake of having the power or control over the society or system. If we take  e.g. the mayor of a small city who is being controlled by the regional government. The regional government then is being controlled by the next higher positioned authority. The same structure we usually find in business. There is always somebody who is controlling somebody else. And every layer within whatever type of organization is creating another level of complexity to the overall organization. Hence, to the decision making process.

To make it even more complex we not only have to deal with the „official“ organizational structure of a system or an organization. We also have to always to deal with the „non-official“ organizational structure of an organization. We speak about the „formal“ and „informal“ decision making processes. The bad news is: The power is always in the informal! Finally that means we definitely have to understand very well who the real decision maker is. As a not aside: This is the reason why Pure Leadership doesn’t require the entitlement by titles.

Once we have figured out who is the real decision maker we usually have to deal with another issue which is the different motivation for taking the one or the other decision. In sales training we speak about the „official“ and the „hidden“ agenda. The official one is obviously what is the politically correct motivation that is usually being discussed within sales processes and negotiations. The hidden agenda is the one that provides personal benefits, what ever those are, for the decision maker. What do you think would be the stronger motive for most of the human beings to decide in the one or the other direction? Hence, another information we desperately must clarify at its highest level of clarity is the hidden agenda of the real decision maker.

Sure, there many other factors and details we have to investigate, double check and clarify but those would also support the thesis that the complexity level is going to become even bigger than it is already. The size of the organization, the size of the deal, the organizational and commercial structure of a company etc., all those criteria determine the complexity level.

But how to handle complexity then best. Of course, we have to do our homework, investigate, interpret, cross-check and conclude the details. Also, the higher we move up in a hierarchy the lower the level of complexity is becomes because we’re getting closer to the real decision maker on the one site but also it’s likely to become more difficult to get the information we like or need to have! And it’s tough to get there, independent whether we try to go Top-Down or Bottom-Up. Hence, we either be patient to get to the point where the level of complexity is low (Top-Down), or we  accept to deal with a higher level of complexity while getting quicker into the process. However, in both cases we talk about complexity even though the structure of complexity differs. Strange? Not really, just think about it.

What ever route we choose, we must dissolve the complexity. And the way to achieve that is always the same: Understanding the process in order to be able to break it down into pieces, as small as possible pieces when going through the process the first time. Each and every piece then will pose questions that need to be answered by associating actions to those pieces/questions. After having the answers you’re rebuilding the complexity again but with the difference to now understand the complexity.

The pieces can be involved people, the agenda of those people, the informal decision making process, environmental information, personal information about the involved people etc. Then another factor comes into play which is TIME. For some the findings we have to have a certain level of relationship as I believe that not so many people will provide e.g. personal information on the basis of a unproven relationship. So, we either spend a lot of time with individuals on a short period of time to ‚make friends‘ with them, or we take a longer period of time to do so. There is no shortcuts for a sustainable relationship! Also, please remember the hidden agendas. Those are the tricky ones. We must know where to tackle whom with what! And eventually these hidden agenda becomes a moving target that requires us to keep track on it.

Finally my conclusion is, that the general evolution of our planet has been achieved in BABY-STEPS. That’s why it took  millions or even billions of years to build it. The same is true for building and dissolving complexity! Once being in front of a complex situation it requires a lot THINKING to find a meaningful approach to dissolve it. What always works is cutting the process in small pieces, working on the pieces and re-assemble the pieces to a process again. BABY-STEPS back and forth! Finally those approaches require a huge portion of PERSISTENCE, in whatever period of time, to become successful!

This is always true, independent from what we’re doing and in whatever system we’re.

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