Fear Breeds Complexity

The Global Simplicity Index tells us that, in the private sector, simplicity pays. The majority of consumers will spend more, for an easy customer experience and clear value offering.

Aldi has topped the index for the last four years. Compared to other supermarkets, Aldi carry fewer options per product category. They have a more consistent store layout across locations and a crystal-clear customer promise that is consistently delivered on – affordable, quality products. Simple brands, like Aldi, Google, Netflix and Ikea understand that making an experience easy is one of the most powerful ways to make customers like me happy.

You may be unsurprised to learn that government is not so simple. The average government agency is 30% more complex than some of the world’s largest companies. Externally, this means that service can be needlessly complicated. Internally, this means that policies, processes, strategy, organisational design act as handbrakes to progress.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
― Leonardo da Vinci

We add complexity and bureaucracy out of fear. Simplicity would require bravery, clarity, risk and trade-offs. Ironically, this complexity erodes the very trust we are trying to protect.

A desire to be accountable, transparent and frugal underpins a heavy layer of bureaucracy that is totally off-putting to stakeholders and community. The bigger we get, the worse we seem to be, creating a tyranny of scale that amplifies complexity with duplication, overlap and inefficiency.

Our customers aren’t the only ones getting frustrated by this – staff suffer too. Engagement and productivity are the obvious victims, but the more insidious stifling effect of needless complexity is risk aversion. When people stop sticking their necks out because it doesn’t feel worth trying to change anything, the quality of policy and public service suffers too.

Our problems are complex, but our organisations shouldn’t be.

Til next week
- A