by julia.hanigsberg | March 4th, 2014

No, this isn’t a Valentine’s Day blog!

We’ve heard the expression before, “Keep it simple Stanley” (the Stanley comes from one of my kids’ friends–much politer than the version of this expression you and I probably grew up with!).

I’m thinking about the KISS principle because in my daily work I’m finding complexity–lots of complexity. I’ve heard myself say over and over to various people “why can’t this fit on one page?”

Arguably, things simply are complex. Big organizations are complicated if for no other reason than we are…big. We exist in complex regulatory frameworks so we have to care about the laws, policies and guidelines that govern what we do. Technology introduces system complexity into much of the work that we do on a daily basis. Our client needs (regardless of what sector, private or public) are more multifaceted than ever before.

So all these challenges lead to layers and layers. We complain about this in our public policy. Governments add more laws and regulations than they repeal. When we find a new problem we introduce a new policy, procedure or committee to address it. Where our technology falls down we often succumb to the temptation to layer another system on top of it. Where something doesn’t work we may add another person into the mix to fix or at least do the additional work created by this complexity.

And so there is more and more and more.

Often policies are long, begging the question, who reads them anyway? Procedures can be multilayered leaving decision-makers and applicants equally confused about roles and responsibilities. We layer training on top of the complex policies and try to convince people to shoehorn that training into already busy work lives.

So try this on for size. Consider the first step of development of a new policy (or even more importantly, amendments to an existing one) the “can’t we fit this on one page” step. Try a flow chart if your mind works that way. Rather than grafting an extra layer onto your policy, practice, system or structure, consider peeling away and perhaps, when you can, starting from scratch to get it as simple as possible. Ultimately, we know every policy or practice can’t be described in one page, but our thinking, our understanding, our compliance and enforcement will benefit by making everything only as complex as it absolutely needs to be, and not even a tiny bit more.

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