Agility Through Simplification: 11 Ways To Expand Your Business And Increase Revenue

Wilson Zhu

Procurement: Don't Go It AloneWhen people say “simple,” thoughts such as “requiring little effort or learned knowledge,” “having few parts,” and “free from obstacles” come to mind. We are drawn to headlines touting simple tricks for every imaginable thing. We embrace technology with simple experiences. We dream of living the simple life. The preference is always simplicity, but our human nature creates complexity. However, we can change.

It is possible to reform our complex ways to create a world that is indeed simple. As the living and breathing engine behind a business culture, senior leaders have the power to bring simplicity to life. By embracing the value of simplicity in their interactions, decisions, and actions, executives mirror the attributes of great simplifiers that employees should adopt to “run simple” as one enterprise. New behaviors lead to new instinctive habits. Then comes a changed mindset that eventually becomes part of the company’s DNA.

6 behaviors that can help reform your complex ways

According to the academic and project work of Simplicity Consulting, there are six behaviors consistently exhibited by great simplifiers.

  1. Focus: Identify and prioritize things that will have the biggest impact on success by itself.
  1. Clarity: Give well-defined directions, and explain even the most complex concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.
  1. Collaboration: Work constructively with other teams and people to achieve shared goals.
  1. Courage: Challenge harmful complexity in all cases, and stop activities that do not add value.
  1. Pragmatism: Choose simple, realistic, and actionable solutions over a more complex option.
  1. Empowering: Entrust people by empowering them to do something themselves.

Although this list may seem overwhelming, I have some news for you: You do not have to be good at all six – three or four behaviors will do. The real trick is incorporating the behaviors you elect to strengthen and build an action plan around.

5 practical ideas that turn “simple” theory into action

Merely understanding these attributes and their importance does not automatically lead to change. It takes time and effort to put these qualities into action – and more important, leadership needs to be on board and prepared to become devout practitioners of simplicity.

Here are five ways to help get your C-suite started on its journey to business simplification.

  1. Run “love simplicity” workshops: Start a two-way discussion that makes it clear that complexity is not an immovable force. Show the advantages of simplicity and prove that it is attainable. Share your personal experience in a manner that is universally relateable. Achieving a better work-life balance? Focusing on more enjoyable and valuable aspects of your work? Experiencing less frustration and obstacles when moving the business forward? When personal benefits are evident, people are more likely to commit to the change.
  1. Give permission to reset priorities: In the spirit of simplicity, less is more. Most people are juggling too many things at once, and failing to deliver on big opportunities as a consequence. Permit your leadership to reorganize their priorities and be realistic on what their team can handle. Assign resources to initiatives that add the most value. For projects that can bring good returns, put them on hold until there is capacity. Eliminate everything else.
  1. Remove complexity – responsibly: Set aside a day to reflect on internal and external operations with the entire C-suite. Identify three things that should stopped immediately. But before you eliminate them altogether, assess whether their removal will cause harm to the business.
  1. Reward followers of simplification: Recognize teams and individuals for their success in making something simple. Remember the last time you received a pat on the back? It makes you feel larger than life, an inspiration to everyone. Plus, it sends a strong signal to the rest of the workforce that simplification is here to stay and the future of their careers – as well as the business – depends on it.
  1. Communicate and inspire: Regularly communicate new ideas, share successes stories, and serve as a reminder of why simplicity is better. Once they see you are serious about tackling complexity head-on, employees will quickly start taking action themselves.

When Run Simple becomes your company’s new mantra, doing things in the simplest way possible becomes the default. However, getting to this point takes time, hard work, and consistency.

Explore the behaviors of great simplifiers and how to embed them in your organization

Engage in our upcoming #SAPChat Tweet Chat with thought leaders including Steven Hunt, Bill Jensen, and IBM:

  • When: June 25, 2015
  • Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT
  • Topic: Embedding Simplification in Your Organization
  • Guests: Steven Hunt (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 studies “What are the Behaviors of Great Simplifier” and “Embedding the Simplicity Behaviors into Your Organization” from Simplicity Consulting and Bill Jensen’s study e-book..


Want more insight on simplification? See Business Simplification 2015: The Unmet Strategic Imperative.

About Wilson Zhu

Wilson Zhu is a Marketing Manager at SAP. He focuses on the topic of Digital Supply Chain and IoT. Follow him on Twitter: @thezhu.