Bryan’s Blog: Go on. Fix it until it is really broken.

I am reminded time and again, in organisation after organisation, of the tendency to take a basic product or service and over complicate it until it’s “broken”. And if you want examples, look no further than support functions in organisations. Whether they be finance, procurement, risk or records management. Unless you have pro-actively resisted the temptation, every end user will tell you, “the system is over complicated”.

If your system is over complicated, your challenge to engage with and benefit the business is much greater than it should be and increases your chance of failure.

What do KFC, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola all have in common?

Besides the obvious double-edged sword of world-beating access to cheap and fast taste sensations and a now universally accepted health risk, they have all stuck to a basic recipe. While they have all added variety to their offerings and hence complexity to their business, they have ensured the core essence of their success has continued.

  • KFC – Their “finger lickin’ good” recipe.
  • Coca-Cola – Their closely guarded secret recipe.
  • McDonald’s – Maccas is slightly different. They have ventured furthest from their core cheeseburger and “two all-beef patties …” Big Mac and have experimented with everything from ribs to salads. What they have not varied, however, is their commitment to polite, friendly and fast service. Their stores continue to operate like a well-oiled machine.
    So ask yourself this question.

What is the bare minimum system design required to get the core result I need? If your system is 20% more complicated than that, look to pare back complexity. To do this, look at cause and effect. What behaviour are you seeing amongst staff that you don’t want to see? Look behind that behaviour to find its underlying causes.

Yes, it is easy for staff to say that the “system is too complex”, however, often it is a few very specific things that turn them off using the system that they can articulate if asked. Fix them and you markedly improve your chances of ongoing fruitful engagement with business end-users.