4 Strategies for Managing Complexity in Your Organization

November 3, 2020


Running a business involves a series of choices — all day, every day. From small decisions to game-changers and everything in between, the constant pressure of decision making is mentally exhausting. 

Today our society is more connected than we've ever been before. The amount of information we get exposed to daily only increases as time goes on.

A new daily planner, some goal-setting, and a dash of meditation aren't going to cure what ails you. You need strategies that’ll help you deftly navigate dilemmas and complexities within your organization. It would help if you had fast and straightforward solutions to keep you moving forward.

We have decades of experience helping business leaders tackle tough challenges. We can guide you through it and give you recommendations here to help you navigate your journey. Keep reading for four recommended strategies to help you manage complexity in your organization.

4 Strategies for Managing Organizational Complexities

1. Accept Complexity

It's confusing when you try to process conflicting information. It makes decision-making seemingly impossible at times. You don't have to like the unpredictable, unstable, non-linear, and fast-paced nature of complexity to cope with it effectively. Most don’t, but we have little choice but to accept and cope with it.

Ambiguities, confusion, and contradictions are to be expected instead of rejected. Instead of thinking "either/or," embrace "and." Modern organizational life has few absolutes and many relatives. For instance, it's not about hard or soft data. It's both. It's not the short-term or the long-term, it's both. It's not about creativity or productivity. It's both, and so on. You get the idea.

Diversity can be challenging. From employees, customers, suppliers, sociopolitical systems, diverse demands and expectations can plague business leaders in their journey to adapting to the ever-changing world.

Running a business isn't easy, and it's better to expect things to be hard. Today's world isn't about hard data. It's about both hard and soft data, short and long term, relatives and absolutes. Paradoxes create energy and encourage flexibility. It will help if you handle complexity. 

You may not always see the entire picture and may have to settle for a partial perspective. This is OK. Of course, the importance of information varies based on how important the story is.

2. Loosen the Reins on Control

We’re in control less often than we would like to admit. It would help if you controlled what you can, let go of what you can't, and know the difference. There's nothing wrong with planning. It's an essential part of the process. 

Thinking through your options, resources, priorities, and expectations is valuable, but don't set your plans in stone. Stay flexible and allow yourself to change your point of view. This mindset works well in complex conditions as you stay open to new information, different perspectives, and opposing points of view. If understanding is an ongoing process rather than an outcome, you can work more effectively.

Musicians use improvisation as a tool for creating something unique. It allows creativity to take more control than when a musician is merely reading the notes on a page. The melody serves as a minimal structure for the musician to improvise around. If you understand your company's processes and strategy, you can pare them down to their minimal structures. Then you can operate with these minimal structures to make your business more agile.

Companies often get bogged down with a lot of outdated procedures, routines, and bureaucracy. Improvisers have learned how to deal with ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness, and flux and are masters at dealing with complexity. Your organization needs to learn and improvise if you want employees to exercise the necessary creativity and adaptability to deal with complexity.

Your leadership team should design and nurture a culture that enables learning through experimentation and improvisation. Learn to improvise with openness to trial and error. Employees need to feel they can make mistakes while experimenting. You need to foster a psychologically safe environment, particularly when things are challenging or complex.

High-performance requires flexibility, openness, and interdependence that can only develop in a psychologically safe environment. Once employees feel safe, they will start to explore new ideas that could lead to a breakthrough for your company.

3. Simplicity is Your Friend

No one has the ability or energy to fully understand everything or find 100% of the solutions they need all the time. You need to find a zone for routine and simplicity in your work. There's the 20/80 rule, where 20% of work situations or assignments may bear 80% of your job's complexity. If they do, then chances are simplicity will apply in 80% of your daily work.

Tools like metaphors, stories, analogies, symbols, and archetypes have been used for ages to simplify complicated concepts. They are useful shortcuts to describe and help people understand complex matters.

Another way we can make things simpler for ourselves is to branch out. Use socialization as a way to gather multiple perspectives and pieces of information all at once. This type of kaleidoscope thinking can help with high complexity situations. 

Allow for multiple people to have the information, instead of one person understanding the entire picture. Don't leave one person to figure all of it out. Get a team of people creating puzzles as a whole of information, perspectives, and solutions.

4. Don't Get Stuck Analyzing

Our linear cultures are deeply rooted in the process of analyzing information. Although this can be valuable, it can also get us stuck when we don't need to be. We want clear answers to everything when one may not always be available. Sometimes taking action with trial and error is more effective.

Getting stuck otherwise can create clusters of information that get mixed up, and nothing gets resolved. Working through them by taking action can solve the issues and create an effective routine. Once that routine gets implemented, the rest can take care of itself.

Get Your Business Unstuck and On Target

By joining the Get Unstuck and On Target Workshop, we will help you implement a proven process that will quickly take you through identifying challenges and opportunities and promptly prioritizing the ones that will have the most impact. 

You can score them based on confidence in success and narrow down all of your choices into 3 of the most useful things to implement. In only a handful of hours, you will have narrowed down hundreds of potential decisions into a single executable action plan.

As a business leader, you likely have entirely too much to process. This Workshop makes it quick and easy to refine your focus on what will have the most significant impact. It's also a repeatable process that you can execute every time you need to narrow down your choices and choose the best path forward.

The Workshop can help you ultimately manage complexity in your company with a repeatable process to help you focus on the things that will drive the most improvement across your organization. Sign up today to learn more.

This Quiz is Going to Assess you in 3 main Areas...



People is about making sure that you have the right people in the right positions in your company, and that you have a plan for how to retain and train your top talent.


Planning is all about knowing where you're going and having exact steps that you can take for how you're going to get from here to there.


Process is about having efficient systems in place to help you get ahead of your competitors faster and with fewer mistakes.

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