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Want To Simplify Work And Increase Satisfaction? Here's how...

Is your work getting more complicated, more bureaucratic? Is there less connection between your work and your sense of satisfaction? Are your productivity and your engagement dropping?

I re-watched a fascinating TED talk the other day, by Yves Morieux of the Boston Consulting Group. I have watched it a few times now, as it resonates with questions asked by many of my career clients.

Morieux says that we base our business models on two pillars:

Hard - structure, processes, systems
Soft - feelings, sentiments, interpersonal relationships, traits, personality

And whenever a company reorganises, restructures, reengineers, goes through a cultural transformation program, it plays with these two pillars, and tries to refine them and to combine them. The real issue, says Yves Morieux, is that these pillars are obsolete.

Trying to draw more little boxes with more reporting lines just makes things more complex - and less efficient. For Morieux, it is 'basically the interplay' that is, it's about how the parts work together, the connections, the interactions, the synapses. 'It is not the skeleton of boxes, it is the nervous system of adaptiveness and intelligence. You know, you could call it cooperation, basically.'

He uses an example of a bank where the front office and back office aren't co-operating. The classic solution is to insert a middle office to help communications. As most of us know, generally all this does is add an extra layer of mis-communication between the two parties who need to sort it out.

The solution? 'Smart simplicity', with rules to guide us (summarised here, but watch the talk for the full picture):

Simple rule one: Understand what others do. What is their real work? We need to go beyond the boxes, the job descriptions, beyond the surface of the container, to understand the real content.

Simple rule two: You need to remove layers and have 'integrators' who understand how to bring people together.

Simple rule three: Empower everybody to use their judgment, their intelligence. Then they can take the risk to co-operate, to move out of insulation.

Simple rule four: Create feedback loops that expose people to the consequences of their actions. Show people 'the shadow of their future'.

Simple rule five: Increase reciprocity, by removing the buffers that make us self-sufficient. Then, as Morieux says 'you hold me by the nose, I hold you by the ear. We will cooperate.'

Simple rule six: Reward those who cooperate and blame those who don't cooperate. Don't punish failure, only punish failure to co-operate, failure to ask for help. 

This way, says, Morieux, you increase improve performance and satisfaction at work because you have removed the common root cause that hinders both - complicatedness.

Is it really this simple? I don't know, but it certainly looks like common sense. So, is there somewhere in your working life that you can implement even one or two of these rules? A process you can simplify, a team member you can empower?

Could be interesting...
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