From Idea To Reality: Bringing Business Simplification To Life (Part 2)

Michael Rander

idea for business simplificationYou’re eager to engage every employee with a modern, compelling, and intuitive experience. Global processes cannot be simplified and standardized fast enough to help drive efficiency, compliance, and data quality. And you no longer have a tolerance for complex multi-approver workflows or irrelevant information. However, business simplification starts with your top leadership and the change in behaviors needed for organizational adoption

The hard part is convincing your leadership team and the rest of the workforce that this is not another fad. The trick is integrating these behaviors into the DNA of your corporate culture.

Big initiative, right?

Great simplifiers know a secret that can help – chunk a big, immovable issue into smaller, easier-to-solve problems. In this case, bringing a culture of simplification to life can be divided into two phases.

Phase I: Convince leadership that simple is better and to act on that mindset

In every interaction, decision, and action, your senior leadership needs to visibly personify the behaviors of great simplifiers. However, understanding the “how” and “why” behind the simplification movement does not lead to automatic change. Your senior team must be given the tools and opportunities to challenge complexity head-on and strongly embed it into their approach to work and life.

Easier said than done. However, it’s not impossible. Here are five ways you can make simplicity a permanent fixture within the C-suite:

  1. Empower your leaders: Help your leaders understand what simplicity means for them personally, their areas of responsibilities, and the company at large, and then keep the value alive every day in your own work to remind and challenge your leaders to reinforce this new mindset themselves.
  1. Encourage idea exchange: Give leaders an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas. With this approach, they will challenge each other and reinforce the value of simplicity.
  1. Simplify feedback and reviews: People need clear, open, timely, and regular feedback to improve. So give it to them by incorporating the behaviors of great simplifiers into personal development and performance review processes.
  1. Measure, measure, measure: Give leaders a realistic complexity reduction goals for their area. And since money focuses the mind, be sure to link it to their remuneration.
  1. Don’t stop: Once you forget about simplicity, so will everyone else. Don’t stop talking about it, living it, and championing it. Whatever the reason or subject, the importance of simplicity should always be emphasized – even in smallest ways.

Phase II: Nurture employees to make simplification a way of (work) life

Once your senior team fully adopts operational simplicity into their own practices, it’s time to start embedding the value into your workforce culture. But this time, it’s your leaders’ turn to become the evangelist for their individual organizations.

Again, not an easy assignment – but entirely possible. Here are five practical ways your leaders can get underway on their organization’s journey to simplification.

  1. Give employees something to talk about: Give your leaders a platform for engaging their employees in a two-way discussion. By using a workshop format, each leader can distill the passion, drive, and expectation for simplicity to a common denominator – personal benefits. Once employees understand how simplification can drive a better personal and professional life, they are most likely to commit to this change.
  1. Push the reset button: Admit when priorities conflict with the value of simplicity, and reset how the organization operates. Assign all resources behind high-potential opportunities. And know which projects should be killed or just put on hold.
  1. Challenge complexity: Give employees permission to question complexity without fear, judgment, and conditions. Have them list three things that should be stopped. Then find a way to decisively end those things without disrupting the business.
  1. Award successes – large and small: Reward teams and individuals who have successfully made something simpler. Not only does the recipient feel appreciated, but everyone else receives a strong message that simplification is truly valued.
  1. Don’t stop communicating and inspiring: Like in Phase I, don’t let your leaders stop talking about simplicity. Once employees realize the seriousness of this mission, they will become fully engaged and help wherever they can.

The end goal? Simplicity is the way business is done

Making simplicity the heart of your business culture does not happen overnight. Rather, it’s a journey that requires changes in natural human behavior, work habits, and mindset.

But once you achieve business simplification, everyone will take notice. Your entire workforce will be engaged – creating simpler things, doing all things simpler, and knowing how to eliminate complexity that frustrates and harms everyone and everything in the process.

And better yet, your people will not need to be reminded to make this happen. It will just be the way business is done.

Do you want to learn more about business simplification?

Business Simplification Tweet ChatEngage in our upcoming #SAPChat Tweet Chat around “What Is Simplification?” with thought leaders including Kerry Brown, Bill Jensen, and IBM.


  • When: June 23, 2015
  • Time: 11:00 – 12:00 PM EDT
  • Topic: What Is Business Simplification?
  • Guests: Kerry Brown (SAP), Bill Jensen (Simpler Work), and IBM
  • Host: @SAPNorthAmerica

New to Tweet Chats? Follow the #SAPChat hashtag and join in at any time with your questions and comments.

To prepare for this Tweet Chat, download and read the study “Leading Your Organization Out of the Complexity Wilderness” from Simplicity Consulting and get ready to have your questions answered by our panelists. Join us for part 2 on Thursday, June 25.

About Michael Rander

Michael Rander is the Global Research Director for Future of Work at SAP. He is an experienced project manager, strategic and competitive market researcher, and operations manager, as well as an avid photographer, athlete, traveler, and entrepreneur.