I live in a small town. The town is really known for the federal courthouse and the lawyers that make their living from the courthouse. I am also the founder of the local youth soccer league. Each fall we place hundreds of grade school aged kids on teams via a “draft” and coach’s selection of those kids. It’s simple problem, place all the kids on teams with the teams being relatively balanced in terms of skills. The NFL calls this “parity”. It amazes me how overly complex the parents make the team allocation process. It’s a simple problem, with a simple goal yet parents insist on applying overly complex solutions. Keep it simple stupid just doesn’t work with lawyers who spend their days in front of federal judges.
That’s my weekend work, on weekdays I venture into the corporate arena. The problems are big, hard and complex. The goals precisely defined and hard to achieve. I continually observe corporations apply overly simplistic solutions to very complex problems. They create project teams staffed with people who cannot fully grasp the problem at hand. They then opt to “achieve consensus” to the problem and everyone returns to the “real job” having thrown a powerpoint on the wall to see if it sticks.
Simple problems attempted to be solved with complex solutions leads to an increase in the complexity of the original problem. Thus making the work unnecessarily harder.
Complex problems attempted to be solved with simple solutions leads to failure and more problems. Now you have created problems due to the failure.
What is needed is to apply solutions that are comparable in complexity to the problems they are intended to fix. If you have federal attorney’s applying their level of thinking as to how to place 8 year olds on soccer teams, you should expect unhappy customers and more complexity than is needed for 8 year olds to play soccer a few weekends a year. If you have problems and challenges related to the rolling out of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on thousands of employees and this problem is going to be solved by a “project team” of managers (not executives), then you should expect a lot of unhappy and confused employees. You have now creating a leadership challenge that didn’t exist before.
The solution to this conundrum is simple yet complex (yes I said that). Identify the level of complexity of the problem first (no easy task), then assign a team or individual with sufficient “capacity” to solve this problem and make the right decision. If you deem a problem to be a Level III project then assign a Level III individual to it. If you have a much higher level problem, for example a Level V strategic project, you can staff that project with Level III and IV individuals but the team must be lead by a Level V project leader. This leader must not only have the right capacity but most also have the time, resources and authority to work at the appropriate level. You wouldn’t send a team of rookie sales people to call on your largest, most complex national account, would you? Attack problems and decisions with appropriate level talent.