5 Steps to Simplifying Complexity at Work


People have not learned to deal with complexity. Complexity and fast-paced change are new. We’re all learning together.

Paradoxically, to manage complexity well, you must learn to simplify it.

Step 1. Slow down your pace. Simplifying complexity involves being intentional about learning and doing. Stop doing if you don’t know what, why, or how to do something.

Step 2. Invite the right people into a room to talk. Smart, connected, honest, creative people who are closest to the work are great resources.

Step 3. Ask how others are thinking about complexity. What do they know? What are they doing?

What do we know individually? What could we know if we shared information more effectively? What don’t we know so that we can go out and discover?

Step 4. Plan and do. Take on the problem. Take notes. Gather data. Build a prototype. Talk to a customer. Interview an employee.

Step 5. Debrief. Get “the band” back together to determine what worked well. Why did it work well? How can we do more of this and not that? How can we scale up our positive work? How will more positive work impact other parts of the community or the business?

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