Any organizational leader will likely tell you that they deal with many complexities in their organization. But what specifically is meant by “organizational complexity”?

What is organizational complexity?

Complexity is defined as something with many parts or elements that interact with each other in ways that can be difficult or impossible to predict. Organizations that spend the time to analyze and understand the depth of complexities in their organization gain the advantage of being able to address these complexities and develop countermeasures to minimize their negative impact.

External vs. internal complexities

To manage complexity in an organization, it is important to take inventory and categorize the external and internal complexities that are affecting the organization.

  • External complexities include categories such as regulatory requirements, business landscape, and technical platforms required to operate the business.
  • Internal complexities are generally related to the way people, processes and tools interact to achieve results.

diagram of internal and external factors in organizational complexity

Once an organization’s collection of complexities is inventoried, the next step is to consider and implement approaches to manage them including action plans and mitigations—much like risk management, some complexity is uncontrollable but still can be managed. For instance, when organizations have several regulatory mandates, strategies can be developed to consolidate and monitor compliance collectively rather than independently to gain efficiency.

For internal complexities, a disciplined review of the aspects of the complexity will reveal where there are unnecessary elements, ambiguous structures, or even detrimental components that can be addressed. Good examples include reviewing extraneous approval processes, excessive project time codes, and other self-imposed, unnecessary processes.

Leveraging automation to reduce complexity

Automation plays a major role in simplifying organizational complexity. When automation is first brought up, most think of testing activities for software development. While testing automation is important, all aspects of workflow should be considered for automation, including onboarding activities, environment setup, purchasing, operations monitoring and more. Automation can be extremely effective in addressing complexity when an organization has tools that are properly governed and business users who are adequately trained in using them. Properly selected and implemented tools can generate “quick wins” that make a substantial impact, particularly when they are addressing a high-priority element of complexity identified by the organization.

Almost every organization has several complexities to deal with as they operate their business. Those that characterize their complexity, understand it, track it and manage it have a competitive advantage because they gain the capability to clarify the unknown and can work to simplify key aspects of their business.

Sirius helps organizations address their complexity by offering a “system for changing systems,” which we call an Agile Software Factory. Through our Agile Software Factory service, we help highlight issues contributing to unnecessary complexity in the organization through current-state assessments, value-stream mapping, implementing lean and agile principles, process definition, tool and application rationalization, and more.

Using the paradigm of the Agile Software Factory, organizations can leverage various industry frameworks to “franchise” their implementation. With the guard rails of the Agile Software Factory in place, organizations can take steps to simplify and improve workflow while still tailoring to the specific needs of their organization. Contact us to learn more.