A leader must be able to make the complex simple. That is not easy to do — on several fronts! In many (most?) organizations today, our employees know more about the details of their jobs than their leaders do. This is inevitable in our modern world and will only become more true as time goes on.
Today, as leaders, our expertise is in leadership and management rather than the details of, say, engineering design or new marketing platforms or general ledgers, etc. As part of our leadership skills, we must be able to simplify the complex, nuanced environment we work in. And managers must simplify
the complex projects we wish to complete. Leaders take that simplified view and turn it into a compelling vision for the organization’s stakeholders.
Recalling that people buy why we do what we do, not what we do, our corporate vision must be compelling, simple and memorable. That vision statement isn’t just for employees, it’s for all stakeholders. Values underpin the vision. The values the organization embrace will determine how it views and interprets the inside and outside environment. And, the task of simplifying a complicated, ever changing environment falls to leadership.
Much ink is and has been spilled on the topic of the fast paced environment in which we live. Change and disruption are everywhere. Technology is changing just about every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional.
To respond to this, our internal environment has to somehow mirror our external environment. That means radical transparency (like social media externally), and a safe, supportive, and continuous culture of learning. Part of that is to make sure information, and how it is being used, is visible to everyone — not just those with a need to know.
Leaders and managers used to be the keepers of information and masters of job skills. They knew what was going on at many levels of the company and marketplace and how to do the job. That might still be true in small service businesses. But . . .
If our businesses stick to the typical “old” command and control structure we may well not survive in the new world. We can no longer wait for information and permission requests to flow from front line workers to management — and then wait some more for decisions to flow down to the workers. Instead, we must move authority to where the information is first received by the organization. We must simplify the information/authority structure.
As leaders, we are being called on to understand and deal with complex environments. And we must align our organization’s values, vision, mission and strategies within that environment. Making the complex simple without losing critical insights is difficult and critical. To keep our organizations, team members and ourselves from being overwhelmed by complexity, leaders must become masters of visionary simplification. Our organizations will need radical transparency and safety with hyper efficient information flow.