At the end of July, Google announced its first Simplicity Sprint, which aims to “better results in less time”. According to CEO Sundar Pichai, Simplicity Sprints will inspire employees to work with greater clarity and efficiency; identify speed bumps that could be removed for better and faster results; and how to take an entrepreneurial approach to eliminating waste.
Most of us don’t simplify our own work because we don’t know where to start. What should you simplify first? And how do you take the time to do it? Also, how do you know what the company’s paperwork is versus the work you’re allowed to edit?
I asked these same questions ten years ago when I started interviewing people around the world for what has become Why Simple Wins. Shockingly, I encountered very few solutions to the complexity of the workplace. Aside from Agile software methodology and Lean Six Sigma – synonymous with big manufacturers in the 90s – organizations didn’t have many options to simplify.
Today, you don’t need an army of project managers or expensive consultants to simplify your workday. All you need is a desire to make changes — and a willingness to try the DIY sprints below.
1. Simplify any form/document/report that requires more than 30 minutes or three employees. Which documents, forms or reports are cumbersome for your organization? Do you know if other teams are duplicating the same effort or data? Find immediate opportunities for simplification by listing all forms/documents/reports that take more than 30 minutes or require more than three team members to complete.
From there, decide which of these tasks could be streamlined, suspended, or eliminated. If you need buy-in from someone more senior, use solution-oriented language to phrase your request (i.e., “This change will allow our team to spend X number of hours weeks to strategic objectives like Y or Z”). If no one misses the task by the next quarter and there is no negative impact, take steps to remove it forever.
2. Encourage and reward employees who create workarounds that simplify a frustrating process or tedious task. When our employees create workarounds, it’s a sign that a process or system is slowing down their workflow. Assuming no one’s health or safety is endangered, I’m a big fan of workarounds. They exist at the intersection of simplification and innovation as opportunities to empower team members and improve organizational productivity.
To start removing bottlenecks and rewarding those who simplify your business, announce a monthly contest for the most effective workaround. Invite people from all areas and levels of your business and remove participant names/units from submissions to avoid judge bias. The criteria for “most effective” will vary depending on your industry and the size of your organization, but be sure the reward for the workarounds will actually vary. motivate your employees.
3. Organize weekly or monthly simplification sessions. Invite employees and leaders to come prepared to identify an unnecessarily complicated or redundant task, meeting, or process. The goal is to eliminate, outsource, or simplify as many of these tasks as possible during the session. Consider hosting these on-site gatherings as a happy hour at 4 p.m. — free beer and snacks tend to encourage attendance — or schedule them around golden hour for your distributed teams.
Every organization wants better performance. And simplicity is your way forward. By starting with the three tactics above, you can begin to cut through complexity and create space for more meaningful work. Not only can you complete these sprints virtually, in-person, or hybrid, but you can also trade them in for unproductive meetings or reports that you and your team eliminate.