Simplify – more leadership jottings

I think an important leadership gift is about keeping things simple.  Now of course a lot of things in line are messy and complex so I don’t mean we should dumb things down. However:First of all good leaders are able to see through the complexity, make sense of things and understand the big picture, overall shape and direction. Not only that, but they are able to communicate things simply -they help others to make sense of what is going in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them.

Secondly, our natural tendency is to complicate things. Partly, that’s because we get overwhelmed by what is happening and can’t see the wood for the trees. Partly. It’s because we enjoy complexity. Now, actually there are some great things about complexity. There’s beauty in it, it exercises our minds, it reminds us that we can’t sort things out on our own. However, we also can make things complicated because:

-We just assume that something must be complicated and that complexity is required to achieve goals.  We think complex is better than simple. In design and manufacture this can lead to the temptation to over engineer.

-Complexity equals drama. It enables me to step in as the one who can solve and fix things. It means others have to be dependent on me.

-Linked to this, complexity can become a means to control and manipulate others.

-And on the other hand when something’s complicated, it gives me an excuse to walk away from it or to become dependent on others.

But as leaders we want to encourage and motivate others to get involved and do things. We want to see growth and that means we have to let go of control.

As people involved in any group we also have a choice to make. Do we want to enjoy the drama in seeing what we are doing bear fruit or do we want to create our own drama? The drama I create becomes a distraction from the real drama I should be enjoying. For example, in a church, you can either create a drama about arguing over music choices or you can enjoy the drama of seeing people put their faith in Jesus.

This links to my earlier comments about Lean thinking. One of the secrets that the Japanese manufacturing industry learnt was that if you want to do things quickly and well then keep it simple. So you design things that are easily replicated, you create fool proof processes. The result is you manufacture more items, quicker and at a higher level of quality. The result is that it’s also cheaper.

Now, that’s what the manufacturing guys did but those lessons are applicable in other contexts too.