Simplify complexities
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2019 - 12:00am

A CEO has his business going well, but he’s a bit worried. He decides to check the competence of his employees. So, he asks a very simple question expecting a simple answer.

The first person he meets is his assistant:

- Oh Miss, I'd like to ask you just a question. How much does 2+2 make?

- Yes Sir. Do you want a detailed memo on that?

- No, just answer the question.

- Well, I think it’s 4.

Then he goes to the computer tech:

- Hi John! Just a question. Can you tell me how much does 2+2 make?

John runs Excel, and after five minutes answers:

- It is 4.00 E+0, but I'm not sure, the support staff should come tomorrow. Will I ask them to check it?

Then he goes to the accountant:

- Hello Mister, can you tell me how much does 2+2 make?

- Well, well, I know I'm late. I’m sorry. I didn't already collect all the data, neither check all the accounts. But I can estimate it now between 3.196... and... let’s say... 5.659. But I’ll be able to make a much more accurate estimate within two weeks!

A bit disappointed, he goes to the sales manager:

- Hello Bob, could you tell me how much does 2+2 make?

- So... How much do you think it makes?

- I ask you to answer.

- Mmh... you don’t want to tell me your price. You want me to make an offer. - Indeed.

- So, let’s say 6! No, excuse me, you’re not that kind of man, you know the market. I sell it to you for 5.25, and that’s the price I make for my best friend!

Then he goes to his lawyer:

- Good morning Mister. Can you tell me how much does 2+2 make?

- Right now?

- Yes!

- So, at first I would say 2, but I'm convinced that with good reparation, we can get 3!

And, finally, he goes to the actuary:

- Hello Sir, can you tell me how much does 2+2 make?

- Of course. It is... It is... Mmmmh, well, how much would you like it to make?

People can make simple things complicated and in doing so cause a lot of misunderstandings and conflicts in the workplace. The important thing to know is that sometimes leaders are too busy and absorbed with a thousand and one hundred things going on in their minds such that they take the answers of their people and accept them by their face value then make decisions. And believe me, this could be disastrous for the company. When there is growth in business, both in structure, size, and population—complexities tend to increase as well.

When you hired your people, you hired them for their competence and work experience. But consider the fact that things have changed. The business landscape continues to transform. Technology does not only transform by way businesses run but more importantly, it has even changed the consumer’s behavior. As in the fictional case in our story today, a question of “How much does 2+2 make?” A non-human voice would have answered that question in a few nanoseconds, “It’s 4!” with clarity and certainty. Trust me. I tried it with my Siri as I wrote this column.

So why is it that simple things cannot be addressed, and common sense make their exit amid a huge organization? The possible reasons may be the existence of silos, bureaucracies, ego tripping and all of these dumb and unnecessary irritants that slow down business progress and complicate things that suck significant company resources and, in the process, causes the business to be left behind eating dirt while competition picks on the slack.

Another huge possibility is the lack of professional training especially in the area of leadership. While I still hear a lot of harping about “the problems of managing these millennials...” as many speakers and trainers are always wont to say; they failed to recognize the fact that these millennials are now poised and should be prepared to lead Generation Z population.

This next generation of people are already having their current on-the-job training and are poised to join the market place within the next year or so. I am observing them and doing a lot of personal research gathering data on Generation Z so I can come up with a leadership training that is designed to equip the Millennials on how to effectively lead this young generation. Without the necessary leadership skills, things will become more complicated.

The primary direction of business owners and top leadership is to simplify things and maximize resources; to train their people and bring common sense back to leadership functions so that they can streamline operations, cut bureaucracy, tear down silos and get the whole team to do things as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Gary Hopkins says, “People often associate complexity with deeper meaning, when often after precious time has been lost, it is realized that simplicity is the key to everything.” I believe so and, in the meantime, Alan Perlis says, “Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it.” And you can't get any simpler than that.

(Attend the two exciting and inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong in his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop this April 2-3 at the Makati Diamond Residences across Greenbelt 1. For registration or inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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