Complexity kills efficiency; it's as simple as that. This is because when people fail to understand how to perform a task, or are confused about the approach, then they are also more likely to quit at the first sign of difficulty or failure.
To boost efficiency, we need to keep things simple, make them easy to understand. This allows people to see how they will be successful increasing the belief which will help them keep going through rough times.
The challenge is that simplicity can be elusive, as we have a natural tendency to over complicate things. With the worst culprits being experts, in my experience, who often seem determined to create complex solutions to prove their value and expertise, but which make it difficult for others to implement.
Here are five ways to help promote simplicity and boost efficiency.
1. Explain things clearly and simply.
When I worked in IT, I was often surrounded by technical expertise, who would argue that I didn't have the necessary technical skills to understand. But I always used to remind them that Einstein said: “If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” My experts didn't like this challenge, but if we don't challenge them to explain things simply, we will never know whether they understand them or not.
2. Is there a pencil solution?
This dates back to an apocryphal story from the 60's. Allegedly NASA spent $1 million dollars and one year designing a pen that would work in space and could write in zero gravity. The Russians, not being as smart, used pencils. This is a great learning tool to share with your staff, to remind them to keep looking for pencil solutions.
3. Use effective time management.
If we just try to shave 10 or 20 percent off of a task, we will look to just improve the current solution. Whereas if we ask ourselves how could we do this in 20 percent of the time, it will make us look at things completely differently which could help us find an alternative or better solution.
4. Challenge everything.
Pareto says that 80 percent of the work is often done with just 20 percent of the effort, with the remaining 20 percent requiring 80 percent of the effort. We need to challenge everything in this last 20 percent. Do we really need it? Is it essential? As we waste time, effort, and money on adding unnecessary bells and whistles and things that are just nice to have.
The more we can eliminate the simpler we can make things.
5. Don't stop at the first solution.
Complex solutions are easy to find, much easier than simple solutions, so we mustn't stop at the first solution we find. That doesn't mean keep looking forever, but we should spend some time looking to see if there is a simpler solution available. A bit more time spent in this phase can save us a lot of effort and heartache later.
The simpler we can make things the more efficient we can be which will help us achieve better results, with less effort and probably quicker. The more we practice simplifying things the better we will become at it — until it becomes second nature too us.