Embedding the Simplicity Behaviours Into Your Company

INTRODUCTION In the last paper, we identified the six behaviours that great simplifiers consistently exhibit – focus, clarity, collaboration, courage, pragmatism and empowering. But, the simplicity behaviours will not become a reality in your organisation just by talking about them. These new behaviours need to be embedded into your organisation’s day-to-day thinking and actions. In […]


In the last paper, we identified the six behaviours that great simplifiers consistently exhibit – focus, clarity, collaboration, courage, pragmatism and empowering. But, the simplicity behaviours will not become a reality in your organisation just by talking about them. These new behaviours need to be embedded into your organisation’s day-to-day thinking and actions. In this final leading simplicity paper, we discuss some tangible ideas that will start the process of embedding these new behaviours into your organisation.

simplicity_3_grphc100By understanding the six simplicity behaviours and what great looks like for each behaviour, the job of a leader in the battle against complexity becomes a little clearer. Across your organisation, wherever they are, your senior people need to visibly role model these behaviours within their teams. Of course that is easier said than done; merely understanding what these behaviours are and why they are important will not automatically lead to any noticeable change. These behaviours need to be integrated into your leadership development and measurement programmes.


  • Enable your leaders: make sure all your leaders understand the critical role that their behaviours play in creating complexity. Train them on the 6 simplicity behaviours. Show them how they can be better leaders of simplicity, by living the simplicity behaviours day to day. Make sure you keep this idea alive with your leaders day-to-day. Training is pointless unless it is reinforced with regular follow up activities.
  • Leadership ideas exchange: People like to learn from each other’s experience. So after the leading simplicity training divide your leadership teams into peer groups of roughly 10 leaders each. Ask them to connect with each other every month, to share their own leading simplicity experiences and ideas. This creates peer pressure, because they have to report back, but also allows people to learn from each other.
  • Build the Simplicity behaviours into your feedback & review processes: Clear, open and timely feedback is essential if want to get better at something. Without feedback people simply cannot improve. So give your leader’s regular feedback on how well they are leading simplicity, by making these behaviours part of your personal development and review process. Build the 6 simplicity behaviours into your recruitment and job promotion processes as well.
  • What gets measured gets done: Set each department/team leader a measurable complexity reduction target for the year and link this to their remuneration. Bringing the wallet into the equation focuses the mind!
  • Stay the course: If you stop talking about simplicity people will assume that it is no longer an important issue, so you must keep the issue alive by regularly reminding people of their duty to reduce complexity wherever it hides. When your leaders are talking to their people, whatever the reason or subject, the importance of simplicity should always be emphasised, even if it is just a quick reminder.


Overview: To start the behavioural shift, here are some ideas that your leaders can try out over the next few weeks

Hopefully, by now your leaders will be saying, this theoretical stuff is great, but what do you actually want me to do? What are the tangible ideas or actions we can take to bring this thinking to life?

Here are a few practical ideas to get you going:

  • Love simplicity sessions: Ask your leaders to run ‘Love Simplicity’ workshops with their direct reports, to discuss the power of simplicity and how you can reduce complexity. The first session should focus on the following:
    • Provide a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve through simplicity
    • Discuss why it’s important to the company, but also what’s in it for them personally e.g. better work/life balance
    • Provide some starter ideas showing how they can make things simpler.

When you meet, don’t present or preach to them, instead engage in a 2 way discussion. Tell them why you are passionate about complexity. Get them excited about the personal benefits of making your organisation simpler. In other words when you are successful at simplifying the organisation what’s in it for them personally? It could be better work/life balance, more time to focus on the enjoyable and valuable aspects of work, less frustration and treacle! People only commit to change if there is a personal benefit from the change, so discussing the personal benefits of simplicity is crucial.simplicity_3_grphc101

Help your team to understand the behavioural dimension of complexity and share the simplicity behaviours. Discuss how you can all start to live the simplicity behaviours day to day.

  • Priorities reset: By their own admission the majority of organisations/teams are trying to do too many things, and failing to deliver on the big opportunities as a result. With simplicity ‘less is more’. So take time out to reset your company/team’s list of priorities. What are the biggest opportunities? How much capacity do you have to deliver your new projects/initiatives? How much resource is needed to successfully deliver each major opportunity/project? Now put all your resources behind your biggest opportunities. Where you have projects with good returns, but no capacity, right now, simply put them ‘on hold’ until your top priority projects are done. Ruthlessly kill any projects that have low returns.
  • Challenge complexity or ‘stop’ days: Set aside a day to get the whole team thinking about simplicity and identifying opportunities to reduce complexity. Ask them to identify 3 things that could immediately be stopped, without causing any real harm to the business. Then decisively stop doing the things your team have recommended. Implement email and meeting free Fridays.
  • Simplicity awards scheme and spot prizes: Set up a recognition programme to reward teams and individuals who have successfully made something simpler. A pat on the back makes people feel 10 feet tall, but it also sends a strong signal to everyone else, that simplicity is really very important to you, not just another token initiative.
  • Communicate and inspire: Make sure your leadership team continues to talk about simplicity day to day. If you stop talking about simplicity people will assume it is no longer a priority. Once they see you are serious about complexity reduction, they quickly start helping you. Regularly communicate new simplicity ideas, share successes from other teams and remind them why simplicity will make their lives better.


  • simplicity_3_grphc103Behaviour change is critical if you want to sustainably reduce complexity in your organisation; you can’t win unless you change your culture to embrace simplicity as a daily mind-set and way of working.
  • In any organisation your leaders are the most powerful force for behavioural change, so you must use them as the primary weapon in your battle against complexity.
  • Great leaders make things simple and keep things simple, so their people do not get lost or confused.
  • By using the 6 simplicity behaviours your leaders can bring simplicity to life as a daily value within their teams, and keep simplicity alive by challenging complexity wherever they see it.
  • This behavioural model needs to be strongly embedded into your leadership development and measurement programme so that simplicity does not become just another management fad or religion of the month. Simplicity must become a permanent feature of your organisation.simplicity_3_grphc102
About the author: Melvin Jay is Founder and CEO of Simplicity Consulting. He has 30 years of commercial and consulting experience. The first 15 years of his working life were spent battling complexity in blue chip companies like Danone and Novartis. As a leading expert in simplicity he now works with the world’s biggest companies to help them reduce complexity. He spends all day everyday thinking about simplicity and helping his clients reduce complexity. He is passionate about the role that leadership plays in creating culture and changing mind-sets in large organisations, and regularly coaches senior executives on how to lead simplicity. He co-authored the bestselling and award winning book ‘From Complexity to Simplicity’ with Professor Simon Collinson.


business simplification, future of work