A VUCA series: complexity is nothing to be afraid of

12 Jul 2021 01:47 PM

Blog posted by: Erika Flora – President/CEO, Beyond20, 08 July 2021.

Five people stood around a table in an office discussing

With the level of sophistication in business and technology that we have as humans, you’d think we could crack the code of simplifying complexity.

However, the truth is quite the opposite. Organizations are complex “organisms” and complexity increases the larger they become. It will always be something we struggle with to some extent and there are several elements that increase complexity within enterprises:

Complexity in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) state

What makes complexity so problematic for organizations?

It keeps us from reacting quickly to changes in our environment, so it becomes extremely tempting to maintain the “status quo” and not change at all.

However, if we do try to change, we are often surprised with the amount of work and how many people are involved in the conversation; managing competing needs and the number of other elements impacted.

Often, complexity makes it harder to get products and services into the hands of our customers, thereby increasing costs, decreasing profitability and introducing delays.

There can also be lots of unnecessary or extra steps involved which delay service delivery – and we are then limited in our ability to help our customers when issues or requested changes arise.

We also tend to see only part of the “bigger picture” in highly complex environments, making it harder to work on the right things, make good decisions and determine the cause of problems.

Key concepts in ITIL® 4 that address complex challenges

The guiding principle of “Keep it simple and practical” in ITIL 4 can be extremely helpful in tackling complexity. It’s a consideration we should make when approaching any new initiative, problem, customer request, etc. This guiding principle also speaks to removing waste whenever possible.

Throughout ITIL 4, there are a range of concepts that can help:

Complexity – something to be afraid of?

Rather than treating complexity as something to fear, we should think of it as either useful or wasteful.

As an organization grows and you innovate, you naturally add levels of complexity. This is okay, as long as it adds value and isn’t keeping you from what you’re trying to achieve.

However, where an organization has complexity that doesn’t make sense – such as requiring multiple approvals or excess documentation – you should be aiming to simplify.

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