Keep it simple: Maintain an irrational bias against complexity

I’m currently dealing with a complex situation where the complexity itself is starting to affect the outcome, and not in a good way. People and companies avoid complex situations because they take time to understand and because they’re afraid of getting the wrong end of the stick and making a mistake. That’s what I’m seeing now.

The challenge is that complexity is beguiling. Clever tricks and hacks can add to a company’s story and the benefit vs complexity trade off for each one can be well worth it. The problem comes over time when new tricks are added to the old ones to keep the story fresh. The complexity builds up all the time whilst the story only gets incrementally better because the older tricks are forgotten or not worth talking about any more.

Then over time telling the company story well becomes more about simplifying the complexity than anything else.

Nightmare.

Much better to avoid complexity altogether, or rather only accept it when the benefit vs complexity trade off is hugely compelling. Hence I say it’s best to maintain an irrational bias against complexity and keep it simple.

This is a lesson I’ve learnt before and now I’m learning again. I’m hoping that writing it down will help me remember it better this time.

 

  • Gary Mulder

    It’s called “Technical Debt” in computer parlance, i.e. everything that needed doing, but due to time / cost / organisational constraints was intentionally or accidentally dropped from the roadmap. The antithesis is the motto often mis-attributed to Einstein: “Make it as simple as possible, but no simpler”.