There are ways to reduce complexity in business that have little to do with how much money you spend. Rather, they're more about how you spend the time you have.
As it turns out, honesty can be a key tool for reducing complexity in your day-to-day operations. Let's explore how the simple truth can go miles towards whipping your business into an efficiency frenzy.
Becoming Needlessly Complex
When the market demands that a business scale, team members are often left to fend for themselves. The need to get business done becomes more important than how it's getting done.
As a result, company-wide systems can become rife with individual processes developed by well-meaning people. While business gets done, it's not getting done efficiently.
"Most people don't have a good way to track their workload," says Maura Thomas, an attention management expert. "The result is that people often don't spend their time or their attention wisely. They are more often 'busy' than productive."
And you're familiar with those days where you were "busy" all day but feel as if you got nothing done, right? Right. Days get lost toiling over tasks that are potentially inefficient, duplicitous or without a clearly defined goal that contributes to the company's overall mission.
This is where productivity goes to die. It's also the place where strapped resources get stretched thin for growing companies because of breakdowns in communication.
"Unnecessary complexity makes it more difficult for leaders and employees to communicate effectively, makes it more challenging to prioritize how to allocate scarce resources, and makes it more difficult to identify and mitigate risks," says Liane Davey, co-founder of 3Coze, a firm dedicated to helping companies communicate, connect, and contribute. "The basic building blocks of effective management become strained by too much complexity. "
Learn the styles and preferences of your people so that you can deliver feedback in a way that's easiest for them to digest.
—Liane Davey, co-founder, 3Coze
So how do you fix the communication breakdown and increase both the efficacy of management and the teams you manage?
Why, hello, honesty.
Reduce Complexity in Business With Honesty
When your company fragments into silos that don't communicate, operations can get needlessly complicated. Honest—and regular—conversations can be the ticket out of business bloat.
"If you want to foster growth, open and honest feedback is critical," says Davey. "Without feedback, the quality of the work suffers because there are few opportunities to learn, adapt and evolve."
By establishing lines of communication throughout your teams and company, you can create an environment where honesty is welcome and held up as a core value in your company culture.
Honest lines of communication can help identify duplicated efforts, inefficient and costly processes and build cohesive teams that trust one another on a new level. A lack of honesty can foster a lack of trust, causing further complexities in an already complicated business environment.
"Beyond the actual cost of withholding feedback is the crippling effect withholding feedback has in undermining relationships," says Davey. "When individuals can no longer have the confidence that their colleagues are candid with them, trust erodes. Trust is necessary for timely and efficient decision-making, for productive conflict and for employee engagement and wellness."
Honesty can also be useful in closing critical skills gaps necessary for companies with an eye on growth. "It's uncomfortable to admit a weakness to one's boss," says Thomas. "Honest feedback systems are critical to closing skills gaps in growing companies. Growth and success can sometimes breed overconfidence, but wise leaders know there is always more to learn."
When team members and leaders can admit to their own skills gaps, leadership can see the team's weaknesses. "Honest feedback creates favorable conditions for training and development, and these close skills gaps, ensuring that companies employ best practices at all levels. This streamlines all aspects of company operations," Thomas adds.
Next Steps for Fans of Honesty
If what you've read above from Davey and Thomas sounds appealing, consider taking action and weaving honesty throughout team and company practices.
Here are a few ideas to put honest practices into action to help reduce complexity in business.
1. Invest in training teams to give effective feedback.
"In its simplest form, provide the context—'in our meeting this morning'—then provide a completely objective description of the person's behavior—'when you spoke over Susan three times in the meeting—then share the subjective impact their behavior had on you —'I started to question whether you are working effectively as a team,'" says Davey.
"Once you have delivered your version of the truth," she continues, "be sure to ask an open-ended question to engage the person and hear their side of the story, [such as] 'How were you feeling when you spoke over Susan?'"
2. Understand the different ways people respond to feedback.
"Learn the styles and preferences of your people so that you can deliver feedback in a way that's easiest for them to digest," Davey says. "Some members of your team will need gentle feedback and lots of room for them to save face. Other members of your team will need feedback more bluntly and directly than you are comfortable giving."
3. Create mastermind groups.
"Devoting a generous line-item in the budget for peer groups, industry associations, formal and informal mastermind groups, and both team and individual professional development is an investment in efficiency, and helps to ensure that companies streamline all aspects of business operations, removing unnecessary complexity and improving productivity," Thomas advises.
Armed with these tips for putting honest practices into action, you can now examine how your business might be unnecessarily complex. By weaving honesty into your corporate values, you may have a leg up on the competition and foster a culture of communication—a proven key to a lean and profitable enterprise.
Read more articles on company culture.
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