The world of work has never been perfectly simple. However, it’s taken on new complexities in recent years, as even the smallest business’s operations can begin to get bogged down. What’s the antidote to this complex snarl and sprawl?

Most leaders would likely agree that a focus on simplicity and streamlined operations is key. Three-quarters of executive-level professionals told PwC that complexity was causing problems for their companies. Among their biggest challenges were cybersecurity risks and data governance. Yet organizational complexity doesn’t just affect IT-related processes. It affects people, too.

Recent reporting from CNBC shows that just one-third of workers feel a sense of well-being. One of the main reasons is job stress caused by workload. And the more complex a corporate environment is, the greater the workload demands. Consequently, the longer that businesses allow complexity to rein, the higher their chances for overburdening workers.

Of course, simplicity won’t happen overnight or by accident. To unravel the most knotted-up places in your organization, try making the following changes.

1. Tear down communication barriers.

Do your employees have a million ways to communicate with colleagues, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders? While it’s nice to have multiple channels of communication — and omnichannel support is certainly a must-have differentiator in some industries — it can become cumbersome.

Think about all the means of communication you’re using. Then, consider whether people know when it’s appropriate to send a quick Slack ping versus a lengthier email. Many people make communication more difficult by using inappropriate platforms, not tagging the right recipients, or opting for channels that are hard to track. For example, if your workers are using their personal devices to text each other and clients, which nearly half of all workers do, you’ll probably have a tough time keeping their communications in order.

To strengthen and simplify your communications, practice brevity. Only write what needs to be shared, and avoid sending multiple emails, pings, DMs, etc., when one longer message would suffice. Then, teach your employees to do the same. Help them understand how to clearly communicate and avoid the issues that come when communications are scattered and tough to follow or find.

2. Unclog friction-filled operational pipelines.

Being able to problem-solve quickly is a huge asset for organizations. McKinsey and Company indicates that businesses that have less workflow slag typically outperform their peers. Unfortunately, just one-third of companies fall into this category. Most have operational pipelines that require too many twists and turns.

A solid method of decluttering your processes comes from business coach Robin Waite. He writes about the value of leveraging advanced tools that can allow your operations to move more efficiently and without friction. “Business tasks are better to automate with the help of technology,” he notes. “If you consider the technology, you will be able to save time and money.”j

For instance, you may want to look at some of your most complicated workflows, such as authorizations or approvals. Is there a way to get a request approved faster through the chain of command? Many products, including project management software, can send automatic notifications to the next people in an operational process. That way, no work ends up getting stuck in a frustrating or endlessly complex loop.

3. Innovate with thoughtfulness, not rashness.

There’s little argument that innovation is your friend. With that being said, you don’t want to fall into the habit of just innovating for innovation’s sake. Case in point: When your team members come up with great ideas, your first instinct may be, “Let’s run with it!” Although you may think this is a great way to motivate and empower everyone, you could wind up overfilling your workers’ plates. You could also find yourself with new products, features, or services that bring little market value.

Best-selling author and Fortune 500 innovation strategist Dr. Simone Ahuja cautions against jumping at every new thought. “Simplicity is a hallmark of frugal intrapreneurship,” she says, adding that “too many bows and bells” rob companies and teams of resources and often provide very little ROI in the long run.

“Doing less with fewer steps is more effective when actions are orchestrated to target only the critical benefits you know you need.” Dr. Ahuja cites Philips Healthcare, which put a low-cost and high-value portable ECG tech device on the market. The unit was pared down and simplified. Yet it still gave Philips a competitive edge because it focused on exactly what users needed and wasn’t flashy.

Complexity is out. Simplicity is in. To win the war on talent and the loyalty of customers, focus on getting efficient, not elaborate.


  • Brittany Hodak

    Keynote Speaker and Author

    Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Adweek, Success, and other top publications; she has appeared on programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN; and she has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She originated the role of Chief Experience Officer at Experience.com, and she founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting. Entrepreneur magazine calls her “the expert at creating loyal fans for your brand.” Brittany’s debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores on January 10, 2023.