Financial Data
Updated 20 Oct 2020

It’s complicated… But should your processes really be?

Are you overcomplicating your systems and processes or is there a better way to be doing it? 

Su-Mari du Bruyn, 06 June 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Experience has shown me that people find it much easier to make processes unnecessarily complicated than to make them simple.

This is especially true when we work with people more senior within an organisation. However unnecessarily complex processes are very risky for the following three reasons:

1. Shortcuts

Unnecessarily complex usually also means time consuming, so people having to make use of the process on a day-to-day basis are likely to rather take shortcuts or even skip the process entirely. 

An example of this would be a complex goods inwards-inspection or quality check process. There may be 10 aspects to check on each item, but because the team is under time-pressure or just feeling tired, they end up checking only seven of the aspects or only half of the items.

Related: 8 Free resources for setting up business processes and systems

2. Window-dressing

When people don’t understand the importance or value of a process and haven’t bought into it, they could end up just window-dressing – making it appear as if they are following the process, when in fact they are not.

An example would be a checklist designed to ensure that the bathroom or kitchen is regularly and properly cleaned. However the supervisor never physically completes the daily checks and instead just has the person responsible for the cleaning, tick off all the items on the checklist and they then deliver it to their desk for sign off. In this way it still appears to outsiders as if the process is being followed when in fact it isn’t.

3. Errors

The more complex and cumbersome a process is the more likely it is for mistakes to creep in. The simpler a process is and the fewer steps it has to follow, the less chance there is for errors to occur. Simplicity is thus also an important contributing factor to error-proofing processes.

The best way to avoid unnecessarily complex processes is to involve the people that will be making use of the process. If they understand the process design (why each step is needed and for what) they are more likely to follow each step meticulously. They are also unlikely to design something unpractical, because they know they are going to be the ones using it.

Related: Good governance & processes for SME businesses

Make sure that the process design includes steps to verify the effectiveness of the processes and prevent errors and make sure that the process designers have access to people with the necessary expertise to support and assist them. Creating a report in Excel for example can easily become unnecessarily complicated if you are unable to apply some of it’s functionality – formulas, pivot tables etc.

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About the author

Su-Mari du Bruyn

Su-Mari Du Bruyn is a corporate motivation speaker and has spoken at multiple enterprises ranging from staff self-esteem issues, how to plan and set goals, to how to self-motivate.

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