Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman is one of those books that comes into your life at the exact time you need it. And you’ll know immediately whether you need it now or not. And if you do? What a godsend, because when you are working in a complicated business environment, it’s tempting to try to match it with complicated work of your own. But that often leads to chasing one’s own tail, or rather chasing loose threads, to the point you can’t even remember why you are making the effort in the first place. “Keep It Simple, Stupid” was a popular sentiment in the early ’90’s, and while Morieux and Tollman don’t reduce their advice down to anything quite that lean, their six rules are still concise, memorable, and much more instructive.
The purpose of the simple rules is to let managers really manage, to use the tools that managers have always used–strategy setting and organizational design–but for a different end and a far more effective outcome. The rules help managers foster both autonomy and cooperation to effectively handle business complexity and prevent much organizational complicatedness.
The first three rules “are designed to give people an advantage in the way they mobilize their intelligence and energy at work by providing them with relevant knowledge, room for maneuver, power, and the resource of cooperation.”
Simple Rule One: Understand What Your People Do
“When you think about it, to focus on what people fail to do as opposed to what they do is a fundamentally backward way of addressing a performance problem.”
Simple Rule Two: Reinforce Integrators
“An effective integrator has both an interest in making others cooperate and the power to impel them to do so” and that’s what differentiates them from coordinators.
Simple Rule Three: Increase the Total Quantity of Power
The authors remind us there is a “distinction between simply redistributing power…and actually increasing the total quantity of power in the organization.”
One of my favorite lines in the book explains why this distribution of power is important:
When power is used to mobilize collective action that furthers the goals of an organization, it is a fabulous thing.
The next three rules “are designed to impel people to confront complexity and to use their autonomy to cooperate _with_ others, by embedding feedback loops that expose them as directly as possible to the consequences of their actions, without the need for extra supervision and structure or for the bureaucracy of compliance metrics and incentives.” They are:
Simple Rule Four: Increase Reciprocity
Simple Rule Five: Extend the Shadow of the Future
Simple Rule Six: Reward Those Who Cooperate
Six Simple Rules is a management book, but it is also a social science book, an important asset because it will assist you in both understanding the people in your organization and what motivates and inspires them.