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How to simplify the way we work

Do you sit in meetings, with your stomach sinking and your head-spinning, as more and more technologies are discussed – big data, smart data, cloud computing, distributed computing, intelligent processes – knowing that in the end you will be asked to grasp, evaluate and employ the latest and greatest?

Do you lose sleep over every new product launch and feature update, worried that the sales team will never be able to get up to speed in time to perform at the desired level?

Do you fret over the sinking morale of your team and worry that they look overwhelmed and panicked?

If you answered “Yes” to all of the above, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  And happily, change is on its way.

Increasing organizational complexity, technology/information overload and a 24/7 work environment – culprits of the modern world – are causing overwhelmed employees, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.  This affects the organization as a whole and hurts the bottom line.

Some recent and jarring statistics published in Global Human Capital Trends 2015  by Deloitte University Press, is making companies sit up and take notice.  According to their study:

  • 74% of all respondents rated their work environment as either “complex” or “highly complex”
  • Nearly 72% of employees said they can’t find the information they need within their company’s information systems.
  • 57% percent of interruptions at work result from either social media tools or switching among disparate stand-alone applications.
  • This constant and frenzied level of activity costs organizations huge amounts of money, approximately $10 million a year for mid-size companies.

Recognizing that changes are imminent, organizations are looking for ways to simplify the way we work; to help leaders and employees reduce complexity.  This new mindset is called simplification.  The goal of simplification is quite clear: To simplify complex or inefficient work practices and systems so that employees can focus on getting the job done.

Here are some guidelines to get started:

1. Make simplification a business priority

Companies often make the mistake of departmentalizing their problems:

“Problems with employee engagement? That must be an HR problem. Problems with work processes? That must be an Operations problem. Problems with productivity? Must be a Sales issue…”

Simplification should be regarded as a business strategy with outcomes that both affect and benefit company-wide goals and ROI.

2. Ensure management is committed

Full support from senior management is crucial; it provides insight, enforces discipline and ensures that goals are aligned and prioritized. Stakeholders from all departments should work together to develop the business case justifying the redesign of business processes and workflows.

3. Get to the root causes

Pinpointing the exact root cause of problems is harder than it appears at first glance.  A good idea is to create a team focused on identifying the issues by talking to employees and managers about time-wasting and complex processes that are most frustrating or cumbersome to employees.  By taking a closer look at their business processes, companies will gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses so that they can plan their next steps.

4. Consider technology solutions that are simple and simply work

Fight fire with fire.  In this case, combat complex work processes and enterprise systems with technology designed to make work simple.  There is a whole new class of performance support solutions that were designed with simplifying work in mind. Performance support provides just-in-time support directly within the business application.  What this means is that employees get the support they need exactly when they need it, without searching for the information in a database or going offline to learn how to do it. These systems also alert users when they have made an error and guide them through the correct steps, or offers automation, so that they get the task done better and faster.


The complexity of today’s workplace, information overload, and an always “on,” always connected work environment is resulting in overwhelmed employees, underperformance and lowered productivity. Organizations need to recognize that is a business concern and, if left unaddressed, can damage the company’s bottom line.  Simplification (simplifying the way we work) is a thinking process that business leaders can use to get to the root cause of the issues that are wreaking the most havoc and then implement corrective work processes and technologies to help employees get the job done.



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