How to Decrease Organizational Complexity

How to Decrease Organizational Complexity
Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

Decrease Organizational Complexity
Overly complex processes, procedures, and systems hamper organizational effectiveness and  decrease employee engagement.  No one wants their work to be overly complicated.  To improve business performance and retain top talent, it is critical to make it easier to get the right work done in the right way.

Unfortunately, a large number of companies waste time on areas (symptoms) that are not fully responsible (root causes) for making it difficult to get work done in a way that makes sense.

We believe that the first step to decrease organizational complexity is to understand the current situation to enable stakeholders to properly identify where changing how work gets done will have the greatest impact on your business and talent management strategies.

Understand Different Perspectives
What seem like barriers to effective business practices to customers are not likely to be the same for leaders or individual contributors.

  • Customers just want it to be easy and straightforward to work with you — especially at key moments of truth.
  • Leaders are apt to consider complexity from a broad point of view — the number of product lines, employees, divisions, facilities, countries they operate in, etc.
  • Employees, on the other hand, often think of complexity as specific hurdles to overcome as they do their job — confusion over priorities, misaligned roles, ambiguity over scope, unnecessarily cumbersome processes, lack of tools, too many levels of bureaucracy, etc.

Where to Start
If your goal is to reduce complexity and to make it easier to get stuff done, you first need to identify where the complexity exists.  Here are three of the most fruitful areas to start.

  1. Strategic Ambiguity
    If strategic clarity is not high across an organization, confusion, duplication of effort, and misalignment can unnecessarily hinder efficient and satisfactory job execution.

    Are efforts being wasted in areas that are not a top priority?  Are success metrics and reward systems misaligned with what matters most?

    You will know that you have too much strategic ambiguity if people ask questions before acting, if teams are not fully collaborating, if decision making is challenging, or if the strategy is not being consistently implemented across the company.

    Is your strategy clear enough to reduce complexity?

  2. Misaligned or Outdated Org Structures
    If too much complexity exists, senior leaders should take a fresh look at the company’s org structure and re-think where assignments and resources could be improved.

    Use surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews to uncover where time and resources are being wasted and where organizational conflicts exist.

    You will know you are on the right path if people believe that resources are spread too thin or if people, teams, and functions are not organized to play to their strengths.

  3. Cultural and Systemic Issues
    Sometimes cultural norms, team norms, processes, practices, and systems evolve over time to be more complex than warranted.

    Is complexity caused by certain attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors that need to shift?  Is there unnecessary duplication of employees, teams, functions, skills, technologies, processes, locations, or facilities?

    You will know you are on the right path if the way work gets done is as streamlined as possible.

The Bottom Line
The best leaders know how to define and align strategy, culture, and talent to decrease complexity.  Done right, the company runs with minimal waste, friction, and frustration.

If you are worried that your strategy or ways of doing business is too complex, download  7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategic Clarity to see where you stand.

Evaluate your Performance


Get key strategy, culture, and talent tools from industry experts that work


Health Checks

Assess how you stack up against leading organizations in areas matter most



Download published articles from experts to stay ahead of the competition



Review proven research-backed approaches to get aligned



Stay up to do date on the latest best practices that drive higher performance


Client Case Studies

Explore real world results for clients like you striving to create higher performance