Buried somewhere between the latest revelations from the Panama Papers and the tips for the Grand National, yesterday’s Times newspaper carried a light hearted report on two sets of identical twins who were married, in China’s Shanxi province, in February. It seems that the spouses are having difficulty telling one another apart and have elected to undergo plastic surgery so that each twin will have a unique set of features.
The article left me wondering whether the twins had considered a simpler, less painful but equally effective solution which could be implemented in a fraction of the time and at considerably less cost i.e. a change of hair style.
Government and Big Business
It’s not uncommon for government and big business to overlook simpler, more cost effective solutions too. We have all heard the old joke that the Americans spent a million dollars to develop a pen that would write in space, whereas the Soviets used a pencil.
Not only do overly complex solutions require more money and resources than their lean counterparts, but they take longer to implement, denying the organisation the benefit of a ‘quick win’ and increasing the opportunity for failure.
Good or Perfect?
I once met a very enthusiastic manager who shared with me his vision for improving his company’s creaking processes and systems. He had spent three years looking at various options and had engineered, in his mind, the ‘perfect’ solution. Unfortunately the company’s investment committee didn’t agree and had turned down his proposal. That is when I became involved.
I asked the manager three simple questions:
Where is the company today?
What does good look like?
What does perfect look like?
and helped him redesign and rephase the project so that he could deliver a good, cost effective solution within a matter of months whilst retaining the ability to bolt on some of the more advanced features ('perfect world') at a later date.
This phased approach not only helped minimise risk, maximise return on investment and overcome resistance to change but it also allowed the company to demonstrate the benefits of a ‘quick win’ to its stakeholders.
And the moral of the tale?
In business, as in life, don't over complicate the solution. Less often is more.