Ever wondered why HR Departments insist on tangled processes? Truth is, we all crave simplicity. But peek into our organizations and complexity rules the roost. The harder we try to simplify, the messier it gets. Surprisingly, the culprit’s closer than you think—it’s you. Yes, YOU. Yup, making things complicated? It’s kind of your thing. Go ahead and pick up that red pencil in the photo and circle “Complicate” instead, you know you want to!
“There are several deep psychological reasons why stopping activities are so hard to do in organizations. First, while people complain about being too busy, they also take a certain amount of satisfaction and pride in being needed at all hours of the day and night. In other words, being busy is a status symbol. In fact a few years ago we asked senior managers in a research organization — all of whom were complaining about being too busy — to voluntarily give up one or two of their committee assignments. Nobody took the bait because being on numerous committees was a source of prestige.
Managers also hesitate to stop things because they don’t want to admit that they are doing low-value or unnecessary work. Particularly at a time of layoffs, high unemployment, and a focus on cost reduction, managers want to believe (and convince others) that what they are doing is absolutely critical and can’t possibly be stopped. So while it’s somewhat easier to identify unnecessary activities that others are doing, it’s risky to volunteer that my own activities aren’t adding value. After all, if I stop doing them, then what would I do?”
Ron Ashkenas. “Why Organizations Are Afraid to Simplify.” March 28, 2013. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/03/why-organizations-are-so-afraid-to-simplify
Turns out, people love complaining about being swamped, but secretly, they enjoy it. Being busy is like a gold star.
Managers cling to tasks like lifelines. Admitting something they do is low-value or unnecessary? Terrifying. Especially when job cuts loom large. They’d rather sell the idea that what they do is crucial, even if it isn’t.
Here’s the kicker: you can break this cycle. How? Reward people for axing pointless work. Right now, we hail the overworked, perpetually busy folks like heroes. But let’s not forget the silent achievers—the ones who nail it in half the time. Somewhere down the line, ‘working smarter’ morphed into ‘work smarter and longer.’ Truth is, most folks can’t work smarter, so they pile on hours and glorify every task as vital.