Simplification is the act of eliminating or reducing elements of a process or thing that are unnecessary for it to accomplish it’s intended function. The expression “Form follows function.” is a way to think about simplification.

Complexity Increases Naturally

entropy equationBut, simplification is not so simple. Everything has a tendency to increase in complexity. This is described by the second law of thermal dynamics (Entropy) which states:

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

Another way of thinking about this is that energy – including the energy contained in matter – tends to distribute itself. In other words: Things fall apart. To keep energy confined and focused requires external force or… energy.

Simplification and Operational Excellence

With respect to operational performance, processes often start out with unnecessary complexity and even if this is not the case, they build in complexity over time. This is because small fixes along the way is easier to do than deconstructing the entire process. Over time, complexity increases and inefficiencies are fully embedded.

The objective for any process or product design must be simplicity from the start. That way, it is easier to understand and. A self-regulating system that keeps complexity in check provides competitive advantage. This takes energy

Simplification: Two Aspects

  • Technical: Eliminate waste and reduce variation
  • Organizational / Cultural: Getting everyone to do it in a dynamic environment

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.

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