Simplification is the act of eliminating or reducing elements of a process or thing that are unnecessary for its intended function.  Form follows function.

Complexity Increases Naturally

Entropy Equation as it Relates to Simplification

But simple is not so simple. Things increase in complexity as described by the second law of thermodynamics (Entropy) which states: There is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.

“There is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.”

In other words, things fall apart. Complexity happens. Two gasses in separate containers; simple. But when combined, the molecules mix and complexity increases. It requires energy to separate them.

Simplification and Operational Excellence

We string together information and tasks to make processes that accomplish objectives. Processes often start simple enough. But over time they build-in complexity. Frictions and disruptions along the way require small fixes that add steps and layers and bog things down. Small reactive changes appear to be easier than maintaining simpler and easier to operate processes. Over time, inefficiencies are embedded.

The objective for any process design must be to start as simple as possible AND to keep things simple. Self-regulating systems that hold complexity in check are more effective and therefore more efficient.

Simplification: Two Aspects

  • Technical: Design systems with the least waste and variation
  • Organizational / Cultural: Engaging and enabling the organization to resist the natural tendency to build complexity

This is Not a New Idea: Bauhaus Design Concepts for Simplicity

bauhaus emblemThe idea of simplification has been around for a long time. Bauhaus, the famed German design house (1919 – 1933), had rules for simple design from the start: Bauhaus principles (1919):

  • Simplicity
  • Symmetry
  • Consistency
  • Unity
  • Organization
  • Economy
  • Continuity

These principles apply perfectly to process design and simplification.

This is from Kaufman Global’s Lean and OpEx Glossary of terms. Our definitions sometimes go in creative directions.

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