"Are you in the busyness of business?"

08-11-2018 08:00 by Ian Kinnery

Complexity is Chaos part 2

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery in the 20th Century. We have already discussed how complexity grows exponentially as a business grows.

The busyness of business

Nowhere is that more evident than in what people think their job is all about and what they consequently do. The busyness of business, its constant pressure to perform, adjustment and readjustment both intentional and accidental mean that job roles morph and evolve all the time and inevitably people end up doing something very different in their day to day jobs than was originally intended and originally planned. You will be familiar with the symptoms which result in the salesman becoming an order processor, the policeman becoming a form filler, the HR professional becoming a legal compliance officer and the entrepreneur becoming a social worker.

Not all of this evolution is either planned or beneficial and very often it results in an inefficient and dysfunctional organisation full of miscast and under optimised people working begrudgingly and inefficiently. Hardly a recipe for a high performing team.

A colleague of mine Dave Baney has written a book called “The 3 x 5 Coach” whose simplicity and wisdom is astounding. It requires the boss and the job holder to independently take a 3 x 5 card. On the one side they write the job title. On the other side they write why the job holder gets paid, and how it is measured. Then they get together to craft a definitive 3 x 5 card they can both agree upon and which forms the basis of their regular reviews together.

Communication is key

If you were to ask Dave whether there is ever going to be an app for this he will almost explode. The whole purpose is that this exercise forces communication between the boss and the job holder. Something that is all too rare. The result of that communication is clarity -the opposite of complexity- for both parties, and ongoing clarity and focus on the output through regular reviews.

I strongly recommend the book and the method as an antidote to the confusion and complexity with which we often mire the jobs we do. It allows us to reach a clear and simple understanding of all of the jobs in an organisation and to focus on the essentials so that they can get done, get done well and get done to a consistently high standard.

Because the 3 x 5 card is so small we are limited to what can be written upon it. That in turn forces us to be ruthless and succinct about the main parts of the job and how we measure it. That is why we use a 3 x 5 card, not a single sheet of paper or even a post card. It isn’t easy. It takes time. It takes effort, and in this case it takes communication leading to a common understanding. Mark Twain once apologised for writing a long letter. Had he had more time, he explained, he would have written a shorter one. Being clear, being succinct, being to the point takes time, thought and effort. Effort which I would argue is well worth it.

There is an old saying that when you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember the object of the exercise is to drain the swamp. Don’t let the complexity of all of the alligators you (and your team) are wrestling with blind you to what it is you are really trying to achieve.

REGISTER your place on our next seminar on Tuesday 20th November 5.30pm at Durham County Cricket Club. The topic will be 'The 7 new rules of business that business degree wont teach you'.

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