Drivers of Business Complexity & Simplicity

Drivers of Complexity

This is a brief but by no means exhaustive summary of some of the drivers for increasing complexity in a business. These include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing customer choice through product proliferation
  • Pressure for diversification of products & customers
  • Many engineers, accountants and technologists (who love to work in complexity)
  • People creating complexity to secure their jobs & positions
  • Processes that people have been modifying for years without regard for the impact these changes have on the output
  • Information departments / systems seeking or delivering ever increasing detail just because they can!
  • Complex planning systems (or no planning systems)
  • Increasing compliance requirements
  • Belief that rigour equates to volume (e.g. of reports) when it comes to analysing, justifying and planning.

The drivers for simplifying a business have in the past generally only been exploited when the business is under intense pressure to improve performance i.e. when it is in trouble, as often occurs during economic downturns. It is a shame these drivers only appear in times of trouble rather than growth, for if they were a focus during good times then more businesses would perform well. Read more of this post

From quantum complexity to monied tossers

Probability and Measure

Probability and Measure (Photo credit: John-Morgan)

I am not expert (in anything!) but, unless I am very much mistaken, these scientists are striving for the simplicity on the other side of complexity that Einstein craved.

When confronted with a complicated system, scientists typically strive to identify underlying simplicity which is then articulated as natural laws and fundamental principles. However, complex systems often seem immune to this approach, making it difficult to extract underlying principles.

Simplicity and quantum complexity.

I particularly like the reference to “these systems have memory and are predictable to some extent; they are more complex than a coin toss”.

Which leads me, nicely, on to a recent paper by Nassim Taleb! “Why We Don’t Know What We Talk About When We Talk About Probability”

Taleb is one of the most well known and widely published, critics of the dangerously “naive” practice of applying raw mathematical probabilities [applied to individual or independent events e.g. the coin toss or spin of a roulette wheel] to the, serious and very real, world of finance and insurance*: where it is not ignorance of the subject that is the problem, so much as the blatant disregard for the medium and long term impact upon corporate profitability and social resilience.

A manifestation of the unacceptable face of “Irresponsible Capitalism”

Read more of this post

Strategy: Complexity | Business Excellence Magazine

I love the message and am delighted that Simplicity Partnership do such a sterling job in spreading the word. However, as previous blogs attest, I have questions about their methodology to be answered.

It’s a shocking statistic and, despite complexity being widely acknowledged as one of the biggest barriers to success, it is apparent that business leaders are not doing enough about this problem. Instead of developing coherent strategies to remove complexity costs and simplify their businesses, many leaders are treating complexity as an uncontrollable and inevitable cost.

via Strategy: Complexity | Business Excellence Magazine.

What price simplicity?

William of Ockham, from stained glass window a...

Image via Wikipedia

It is fair to say that the (adapted) words of “Occam’s razor” are as valid in 21st Century as they were in the 14th!

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate

For those of us whose knowledge of Latin didn’t extend beyond ‘O’ Level, this is roughly translated as: Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.

However a more familiar quote, oft attributed to Einstein, that expresses what William of Ockham was telling us, is: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

In modernity we have, unwittingly, come to rely upon levels of complexity in communications, products and services that were the stuff of science fiction in our own life-times…that does pre-suppose that your are old enough to remember Colour television as the preserve of an affluent minority!

But, if we should be striving for simplicity, THE question is: how can we reduce complexity without losing functionality?

Ontonix quantify current complexity and, more importantly, the point of “critical complexity” beyond which loss of function, failure or collapse are assured. We contest that, without a means to, objectively, quantify system complexity the ability to simplify – without loss of function – is impossible as there is no means to “track” causality!

I have read some experts (and consultants) talking about adding “good complexity” and removing “bad complexity”. Great! That makes sense, but if defining complexity has been the source of much Academic “mental masturbation” for over 30 years – without unilateral agreement – I would suggest that this amounts to little more than a sales pitch for consultancy services! Read more of this post

Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity

To demonstrate the inter-connectedness that occurs at just about every level of our existence and to understand what Einstein meant (below) please “take 5” for this presentation.

“I wouldn’t give a nickel for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”                                                                             Albert Einstein

Reducing complexity: Looking at the “big picture” – the macro or system view – makes it easier to deal with the small problems – to micro manage. Read more of this post