Leading to Simple
Leadership

Leading to Simple

Leadership - Leading to Simple
Leading to Simple

Complexity is killing the ability of many companies to innovate and adapt. So, simplicity can be a competitive advantage. Imagine what it’d be like where everyone only engages in essential and meaningful work. How can leaders rebuild their organizations with Simplicity in its DNA?

 

Top 5 Learning Points

  1. You can’t operate with speed; you can’t compete. By just writing it off, I think that’s an absolute nonstarter, that cannot be the way that we operate
  2. How do you kill complexity and sustain simple?
  3. What do employees want- to be inspired to work in a simplified environment?
  4. How do you add more, change processes, and as a result, change reporting relationships, and still maintain simplicity?
  5. Should we take simplicity as a step, always when we’re trying to grow?

 

Show Notes

  • By being more intentional about making everything as simple as possible, we can start to clear away the clutter while a lot of the bigger simplification initiatives get put in place.
  • The best companies that are truly both innovative, the simplified, are the ones that get comfortable with constantly killing complexities to make space for the innovation to happen so it can become a habit.
  • How we can measure simplicity or the ability to get things done in a company are things like, employee retention levels, consistent growth-not just a business as usual stuff but new bottom line growth.
  • Innovating with simplicity- not replicating the past, but actually creating new more innovative and more efficient processes for the future.
  • Defining it, tackling just a couple things and then saying the metrics that you want out of it are really a great way to get people comfortable with simplifying and seeing the value in it.
  • How does Agile increase on processes, innovation and streamlining the products?
  • It’s really walking the walk and talking to talk and making sure that they know that when you say something, you’re going to have their back and yes, they can make change, even at the lowest level that you’re going to support that change
  • Don’t start unless you’ve done all of the homework, you’ve put all of the thoughts, and you talked thoroughly to all of the people involved

 

Transcript Summary

To drive simplicity, on needs a compelling vision for the future and a structured, systematic communication. They need to build trust or else the teams won’t follow. Getting the influencers on board with a vision of simplicity that drives efficiency, reduces costs and increases agility, gets everybody’s buy-in and drives the project better.

 

Transcript:

Sanjog: Today we discuss the topic “Leading to Simple,” with Lisa Bodell, the author of Why Simple Wins, and Ed Toner, CIO, State of Nebraska. Today, we are trying to do a lot more technology, more business processes, more acquisitions, because of which everything is becoming intertwined complex, and that is actually pulling us down. Could this be a time when organizations take a solemn vow to actually embrace simplicity, make it part of the very DNA? Could it not become a competitive advantage? The answer intuitively seems to be yes, but then how easier said than done, that’s what we want to explore.

Lisa, this is for you. We’re saying we want to do a lot of reporting, as the companies are trying to do more with lesser resources or maybe pumping in more resources, who is accountable? Who is making the decision, how are things going to be changed? Everything is moving at warp speed, and we’re trying to change wheels of a very fast-moving car, it cannot be easy. When we have this happening, do you think we should just say, “life will become simple after this complexity”? Can we live with it or there has to be something done upfront about simplicity?

Lisa: The thing has to be done upfront. To me, you just hit the nail on the head when you said simplicity should be our competitive advantage. I truly believe that, and the statistics and research show that. Just by way of background, not too long-ago SAP had done a future of work study, and the number one concern that 70% of the CEOs that were interviewed said, is complexity. The reason why it was their number one concern is that people were drowning in mundane work, they were unable to get the real work that mattered done, and they realized that because for better or worse, things involving technology, big data, etc. are only going to get worse over time. Something has to be done to kill complexity because complexity is the enemy of meaningful work and it’s not about being big anymore, it’s about being fast.

You can’t operate with speed; you can’t compete. By just writing it off, I think that’s an absolute nonstarter, that cannot be the way that we operate. To answer your question, I think that the focus needs to be at every level of the organization, not just from the top, making simplification our new operating system because when simplification becomes top of mind, we become more intentional about it. The problem with so much complexity, the evil twin of simplicity, is that so much of it that it’s created is so unnecessary. We can get into that a little bit more but that means by being more intentional about making everything as simple as possible, we can start to clear away the clutter while a lot of the bigger simplification initiatives get put in place. There’s a lot we can do on a day to day basis to simplify our work, in terms of meeting and emails and policies and reporting, to get rid of those redundancies while bigger things are put in place. You can’t wait for those things to happen or kick the can down the road, in my opinion.

By being more intentional about making everything as simple as possible, we can start to clear away the clutter while a lot of the bigger simplification initiatives get put in place.

Sanjog: Ed, why is this a chronic issue, do you think we are taking on more than we can tackle? Is that where we lose track of what’s supposed to remain simple and unintentionally make it complex?

Ed: I spent 20 years of my career in private industry and just the last two and a half years in public. Things in the public sector are much more complex than in the private sector. It’s inherent because of the fact that in the public sector, you’ve got separate agencies and separate boards, you’ve got separate commissions, and every one of them feels like they need to be autonomous. What that means to the IT world is that we have dozens and dozens of internal infrastructure networks that are separate and don’t even talk to each other. One of the things that I did when I came to the state, two and half years ago was exactly what you’re talking about. I want to take all that complication, all of that out. Of course, by doing that, I hit bureaucracy but we’ve done it, and in fact, I think we did it faster than any other state. We have consolidated all of our code agencies, many of the non-code. The difference in code and non-code are the ones that report to the governor and the ones that don’t.

In March last year, I announced we were going to consolidate all agencies that were code agencies and non-coding agencies that wanted to join us. During that entire 18-month process, we did something that was unique to any state, and that is -instead of asking one agency at a time, I went out and took every single network engineer across the state and added them to our team, then gave them the first task- that is take everything off of your network and put it onto the one state network. That was six months. Six months later, we went out to all the server engineers and said, “I want them off. Bring them into my group, and by the way, your first job is now that we have a centralized network, take every server, every day in a closet out there. There were dozens of these across the state, and I told them, “I want them in our two data centers.”

The third thing we did six months later. We said every desktop and everybody who supports desktops; they’re coming into the state. By the way, we’re not going to support out of one central location anymore; we’re going to support out of eight service centers that are closer to our customers across the state. Just doing that cost us nothing and we’ve already saved $10.2 million in efficiencies to date. That was an 18-month project, start to finish, we are completely finished. We have decreased the number of IT staff in a state by 12.5%. We’ve increased our statistics, the service levels and we have consolidated dozens of separate applications into what we call Standards.

Things in the public sector are much more complex than in the private sector. It’s inherent because of the fact that in the public sector, you’ve got separate agencies and separate boards, you’ve got separate commissions, and every one of them feels like they need to be autonomous.

I said we have one enterprise content management system; we have one email system. We have one of everything, and we have picked the best of the breed and eliminated all the other contracts. That has saved us millions in reduced staff, increased efficiency, reduced cost, and increased quality- every single month. We went in and actually simplified from the bottom up all across the state.

Sanjog: That’s a very encouraging story for other states and even for the private sector because there is complexity even in private sector. Lisa, when you hear Ed’s accomplishments, there was subtraction, there were efficiency gains, everything else. Would you roll this up into saying, he simplified?

Lisa: I would say most definitely. That’s fantastic. Your point is a great one by way of public versus private in terms of public sectors. Having done some work with an education and some other areas within government agencies, I feel there are more handcuffs so to speak versus guardrails that you have to operate with. What he was talking about which is, yes, it’s a cost reduction, but it was also resourced reduction. But the other side of it is, it’s not just a financial gain that you get with simplification. It’s a cultural gain as well as an ethical gain, which is something that people don’t realize.

The cultural gain is things that you get from servicing your customers better, making them happier. Employees are happier because of their service better; you don’t waste their time, there’s a better place to work because they’re being able to focus on things that matter versus not being able to get service from an IT perspective. Those things add to culture. That’s another benefit.

The other thing is, it’s an ethical thing. Ethical meaning, it’s not okay to waste people’s time anymore. Time is worth more than a lot of people than money. What’s interesting is, we let people waste our time so much, and people are starting to get upset about it. People that are proactive like Ed mentioned, it is really smart, whether it’s for his employees or for the constituency service because it’s not right away people’s money, and that alone it’s something that he’s ahead of the game on. Getting rid of redundancies and all those other things are the smart approach, the result that he has I think, speak volumes. That’s what simplicity should do.

Sanjog: People say that it gets ugly before it gets better, so Ed what do you do when you are dealing with t... Read Full Transcript v  

Contributors

Lisa Bodell, Author, Why Simple Wins

Lisa Bodell is a bestselling author and the Founder and CEO of futurethink. As a globally recognized expert on innovation foresight, simplification, and change management, she has helped thousands of senior leaders ignite innovation at Goog... More   View all posts

Ed Toner, Chief Information Officer, State of Nebraska

Ed Toner was appointed by Governor Pete Ricketts as Chief Information Officer for the State of Nebraska on June 9th, 2015. He has spent the last 20+ years in the Information Technology field, and has held IT leadership positions at both Fir... More   View all posts
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