Searching for Simplicity: Simple Isn’t Always Easy
I just read an article in CIO Magazine, titled “In Search of Simplicity.” The article was about large companies—i.e., General Electric—looking for ways to simplify their IT departments and software solutions.
Business owners often look under a lot of “rocks” before finding the simple solutions to what might seem impossible problems in their businesses. For some owners, however, the answer—or solution—can be right in front of them, yet somehow they miss it!
I remember a story my wife Susan told me once about her being approached by a woman she didn’t know, but who seemed very excited to see her. Thinking, apparently, that my wife was someone famous, the stranger said excitedly, “I know who you are...No, don’t tell me. I know your name.” In a hurry to get to an appointment that day, my wife tried a couple times to just tell the woman who she was, but the woman insisted, “No, don’t tell me, it’ll come to me. I know your name as well as I know my own!”
Finally, my wife said, “My name is Susan Beyer!” Long pause, while the disappointed stranger thought about that. “No,” she said finally, “THAT’s not it!” Hmmm!
Over the years, all types of software and technical applications have been added to our lives—each one of these solutions requiring updating and backing up from time to time. Many businesses use as many as 20 different software solutions to run their operations, and maintaining them can be very frustrating and complicated. That’s why IT solutions companies are growing at a rapid pace.
As I was reading the CIO article and agreeing with most of what it was conveying, I began thinking about the many phone calls we get from businesses seeking a “simple solution” for cleaning up the chaos and waste in their operations. Just this past week, I was giving a demonstration on our software to a business owner and his top manager who were looking for a solution to the errors and miscommunication the company was encountering. The duo to know the simplest way to build business processes and an operations manual, etc.
As I led the online demo for the owner and his manager—showing them step-by-step solutions for their specific issues—the manager became noticeably quiet. So I decided to stop the demo and ask some questions of them.
“What do you think about the solutions we’ve been discussing for the past hour?” I asked.
“I think it will take a lot of time to implement these Quality Control and other control systems!” the owner said honestly.
Finally, the manager spoke up. “I see where you’re going, but we can’t get our people to do the things they are supposed to do, NOW! If we add quality control and these other solutions, they just won’t do it. Besides, it seems complicated and will take time to implement.”
I asked the manager, “Did you have any interruptions today from your employees?”
“Yes,” he admitted with deep sigh, “In fact, I haven’t been able to do my OWN work, due to all the interruptions.”
“So, how will you EVER stop that problem?” I asked.
His answer, “I don’t know!”
MY answer was to relate success stories at our company and many other companies that have implemented systems to manage chaos and waste. When you deal with ONE problem or ONE non-conforming event at a time, the solution really can be SIMPLE. However, you must deal with a non-conformance ASAP, or it will come back and bite you over and over, in the form of an error or an unnecessary interruption, like an employee looking for information about how to do his/her job—information that should be readily available in written form.
The comments from this owner and manager were not unusual; in fact, they're pretty much the norm. THEIR way is to deal with problems VERBALLY, by repetition, and the processes for how to run their business is something they keep all in their heads. As with many owners and managers, THEY are the system.
Without written processes, employees must pull constantly at others to get the information they need. It’s a common concept, and can make for a hard life!
Sometimes getting to SIMPLE is HARD, in the short term. Frankly, many don’t want to pay the price for simple; they prefer “easy.”
I have found, over the past 15 years of helping businesses bring order from chaos, that real solutions are SIMPLE (Not rocket science!)—but, for the first year, it’s not always EASY. (Yes, it takes time!) However, the effort ultimately is rewarding and sustainable, and much easier than dealing with the frustrating and time-consuming complications of chaos.
Did I mention? Great systems work!