Speaker 2015

Yves MorieuxDirector, Boston Consulting Group Institute for Organization.

Managing complexity without getting complicated

Yves Morieux has advice for corporate executives: “The real battle is not competitors. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, our bureaucracy, our complicatedness.” The director of the Boston Consulting Group’s Institute for Organization, he has set out to simplify businesses, pioneering new ways of organizational thinking through the concept of Smart Simplicity. Using six key rules, it encourages employees to cooperate in order to solve long-term problems. It isn’t just about reducing costs and increasing profit – it’s about maximizing engagement through all levels of a company.

Keynote Speech on Video

“The real battle is not against the competition”, he says. “It’s against ourselves, our bureaucracy, our complexity”.

Report : Managing complexity without getting complicated

Why is corporate productivity so disappointing and why is their so little engagement in the work on the part of personnel? Yves Morieux has attempted to solve these “enigmas” and to provide a tangible solution via his Smart Simplicity concept. Corporate executives tend to mistake the target: “the real battle is not against the competition”, he says. “It’s against ourselves, our bureaucracy, our complexity.” The basic principles involve starting by seeking to grasp what employees are actually doing within the company and encouraging reciprocity as well as cooperation. One should not necessarily be blamed for failure as such, but rather…

Why is corporate productivity so disappointing and why is their so little engagement in the work on the part of personnel? Yves Morieux has attempted to solve these “enigmas” and to provide a tangible solution via his Smart Simplicity concept. Corporate executives tend to mistake the target: “the real battle is not against the competition”, he says. “It’s against ourselves, our bureaucracy, our complexity.” The basic principles involve starting by seeking to grasp what employees are actually doing within the company and encouraging reciprocity as well as cooperation. One should not necessarily be blamed for failure as such, but rather for the mistake of failing to ask for help. The central question is therefore not just about reducing costs and increasing profits, but about maximizing engagement through all levels of a company.”

“The real battle is not that against the competition, but against our ourselves, our bureaucracy, our complexity”. Director of the Boston Consulting Group Institute for Organization, Yves Morieux has led his teams in studying two major trends in the western working world: the productivity crisis and the work crisis. And he has come up with some useful lessons based on the concept of “smart simplicity” that he outlined during the 7th Forum de la Haute Horlogerie held in mid-November in Lausanne.

Complexity met by extreme complexity

Their findings do indeed raise several questions relating to a widespread crisis of productivity. The latter is sliding virtually everywhere, if not already at a total standstill for several years as in Germany, the “model nation” of the Euro zone, or in the United Kingdom since 2006. Within this context, it’s better not to even mention the figures for France, Italy and Greece. In a nutshell, despite major innovations and breakthroughs, notably in the fields of IT, telecommunications and the Internet, our companies are not managing to convert these into productivity gains. “So where is the potential vanishing?” questions the researcher, while also noting another worrying phenomenon: the disengagement of employees. In Europe, only 11 to 23% of them feel “engaged” in their work. This reality bites well beyond Europe (21% in Australia, 23% in Japan) and is steadily deteriorating year after year. Witness the degree of job satisfaction among American employees, which dropped from 61% in 1987 to less than 43% in 2010. And the relentless downturn continues…

By getting his teams to work on two distinct realities, Yves Morieux reached the astonishing conclusion that the two issues stem from the same cause: the way in which companies have been organized over the past 30 to 40 years. While the world has changed and become more complex, companies have responded by extreme complexity in all their processes. In addition, the days when there were some that focused on costs and others on quality are long gone: today there is no question of not factoring both into the equation. “According to our analyses”, Yves Morieux explained, “teams spend 60 to 80% of their time… wasting their time! There is more and more work involved in organizing work and less and less time spent actually doing it. That is where productivity is being squandered. And that is why people are becoming disengaged – which is entirely normal in systems so little suited to current realities.”

Cooperation is not natural

Faced with greater complexity, the question is therefore about being capable of building an organization that best leverages intelligence. This notably implies building on the three pillars of leadership, engagement and cooperation. Summing up 50 years of theories on leadership, one can safely state that the role of management is to make employees do what they would not spontaneously do – a role that calls for competence, the right information and the power to circulate it. As far as engagement is concerned, it is essential to stimulate employees’ intelligence and judgment in order to enable them to go beyond merely following to the letter the rules that have been established. Meanwhile, cooperation plays a major role, as Yves Morieux insisted: “Good cooperation means that the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. This is not poetry; it’s maths. Cooperation multiples intelligence at work, multiplies energy in action. And when we don’t cooperate as much as we should, we simply arrive too late.”

Beware nonetheless preconceived ideas such as the one which holds that the less we get on with each other, the less we will cooperate. Cooperation has nothing to do with getting on smoothly. It can even generate friction and conflict. “When we cooperate, we degrade measurable performance”, explained Yves Morieux. “And if we confine ourselves to measurable criteria, employees will devote their energy only to what can be measured. Within such a context, cooperation does not represent an excessive effort, but instead more prosaically consists of answering this question: how can we allocate our efforts to what is measurable and to that which benefits the overall result? When I cooperate I take a risk: I sacrifice the ultimate protection of my measurable performance on behalf of that of the others with whom I will be compared. Under these conditions, one would have to be stupid to cooperate! And people are not stupid, so they do not naturally cooperate.” All of which implies that management is also a matter of dexterity.

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