Your Organization Has Too Much To Do Because You Do Too Much


How can we add social media to our plates when we have so much to do?

This is a common statement from nonprofit employees. They don’t want another task. They already have too much to do.

So how can they simplify their work?

The answer is simple: You have too much to do because you do too much!

Byzantine Structures And Systems

Organizations and employees do too much when they work within systems that have become too complicated.

Managed systems with crisp specification of roles, lines of authority, communication and control often lead to hierarchical bureaucratic fortresses. Those systems focus on managing things efficiently by the rules. Too many leaders believe that adding more layers, decision points, moats and gateways is the best way to fulfill their mission.

Complexity is actually the enemy of innovation and creativity. It slows organizations down. It creates convoluted structures and process that do nothing but give someone a feeling of control over stuff.

Organization complexity stems in part from a desire to control internal and external environments. Often organization systems have become excessively complex, hard to understand and difficult to navigate. They serve as barriers to keep good ideas and energy outside of their walls. They maintain someone’s job security and the organization’s mediocrity.

Organizational complexity jeopardizes horizontal equity because it creates openings for abuse. It usually harms those who fail to understand its rules. It creates unnecessary bureaucracy and wasted time and resources.

Large Organizations Embrace Complexity

The Strategy& study Victims of Success: Reducing Complexity For Nonprofits highlights the downsides of organization complexity.

As nonprofits grow larger,

  • The less their leaders understand how the work gets done.
  • Middle managers don’t know how their roles fit into the organization’s big picture.
  • Management focuses on handling the stuff according to the rules regardless of the outcomes.
  • Everyone postures for positions of power and control.

Often staff and leaders spend all their time discussing who is responsible for doing tasks instead of just doing them. They spend their energy trying to control brands, communications, image, messages and people.

Complexity and the desire to control actually closes organizations from their larger ecosystem. This creates an internal race for resources. Staff focuses on grabbing the largest share of budget to serve their own agendas.

Organizations trapped in this scarcity mindset define everyone else as competitors for their resources.

Embracing Simplicity

Interestingly enough, making something complicated is actually very easy. Making something simple by removing the excess and focusing on the core is incredibly hard.

Simplicity clarifies an organization’s purpose, activities and resources. It forces leadership to focus their energy on what they do best. It leverages their resources on tasks that matter.

Simplicity powers informal connections and relationship building. It blurs boundaries. It allows insiders to get out and outsiders to get in. It focuses on people and not just the stuff.

Simplicity helps scale efforts. It brings people together and strengthens their common bonds.

The Power Of Less author Leo Babauta defines simplicity as a two-step process:

  1. Identify the essential elements of what you do
  2. Eliminate the rest

It’s time for organizations to ask, “What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work?” And then do it!

How do tried-and-true processes actually foster organization complexity? What are some of the factors that lead to complexity in organizational programs?

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