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Simplicity Isn’t As Simple As It Sounds!

October 31, 2011

I came across an interesting article recently focused on how organisations should adopt the principle of simplicity across their business (A light touch, People Management, Oct 2011, click here)

The article was specifically focused on how complex HR policies fail to be understood or adopted, highlighting that organisations need to use the simple approach as often as possible.  This strategy sounds like a great idea, but in the current and increasingly complex world we live in, how can we encourage a wider organisational culture that can embrace such a notion?

Often in large organisations, change has to be grounded in the current business.  Yet the bureaucratic nature of large organisations, and large organisation strategies and policies, are a well-known phenomenon and have been regularly discussed.  Large organisations (and their managers) want to make sure that there is a procedure for everything, that nothing is left to chance and that they are in total control or at least in reach of the correct policy when something goes wrong.

Yet, we know that in larger organisations, rife with policies, people work harder to break the rules rather than obey them because they feel un-empowered and under-valued, or maybe just because it feels good to fight back.

Developing a culture that looks for those simple, yet effective solutions needs to be rooted in the values and narrative of an organisation, and must be second nature to the leadership teams and the key strategic thinkers that can be found across the business.

Identification of the desired cultural norms need of course to start with a clear and simple picture of the vision, a view of the current environment and an understanding of what a high-performing culture would look like in the future.  Conversations with senior management can provide many insights into these areas as well as commentary on the strategic drivers of change for the organisation.

But all this analysis will come to nothing if the people who make up the organisation cannot understand or buy-in to the desired changes.

In order to make change happen, especially cultural change which may need behavioural changes to occur as well, individuals need to feel included and involved in what’s happening around them.  There are many and varied ways of doing this, from Appreciative Inquiry to workshops hosted by senior managers physically demonstrating their commitment to the individuals attending and the business and its future.

Finding those individuals, and organisations, which can help with your search for simplicity and its supporting culture, is a key task.  It should start, as always, with an assessment of your business and its environment.  You simply cannot write a policy for change, and you can only ever start from where you are now.

Written by Cathy Dunn, Fellow and Principal at SAMI Consulting

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