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Business Simplification and the Zymplified Workplace

The Problem: The larger and faster businesses grow, the more complex they tend to become. Every increment of growth may introduce a new rule, new process, new procedures, perhaps even a new system or new people. All these amount to additional layers of complexity creeping into the business and with it added expenses and inefficiencies.

Together with the increasing myriad of new digital platforms, 24/7 connectivity and growing demand for regulatory compliance, businesses have found themselves bogged down by processes. In order to manage this complexity, the tendency is to tack on business process after business process. These processes pile up to a point where it stifles the business growth, disrupts the culture and harmony in the workplace and impacts stakeholders in many ways.

It is potentially at this point, that businesses then try to unravel what has been done over time – but the task is much harder. Why? Because you still have to conduct your daily activities (your job) as well as putting out day to day fires. Who has meaningful time to attend to business simplification? Yet, it could be the one single factor or at a minimum, certainly in the mix of key factors that causes businesses to succeed in providing customer value or an elevated and positive customer experience.

When you consider everything that has been said so far and then add in less than desirable leadership behaviours, poor communication, unwillingness to change, dishevelled work desks, outdated office design and many others then it is no wonder employees feel overwhelmed, disconnected and unable to achieve Zen in the workplace. Zen – a place of solace.

The Solution: Invest in a Zymplifed Workplace.

More on this later. Let’s first discuss business simplification

What is Business Simplification?

Fundamentally, business simplification is a process or a practice to make the relationship between the business and its stakeholders easier. Often you will find it written that business simplification is about removing complexity or decluttering the work environment. The theory or the goal is to minimise tasks, activities and rules in the business processes in order to become more efficient and productive. Whilst we agree with the definition, in the end the main purpose or objective is to enhance and enrich the relationship or interactions between the business and its employees, customers, suppliers and owners.

If the objective is to improve efficiency and productivity what is the reason that leaders are not embracing the benefits of business simplification? Simplifying the work increases output, improves quality, reduces costs, eases the burden of supervision and allows a greater focus on what really matters, customers and employees.

Back in 2015, Knowledge@Wharton and SAP jointly conducted global research on business simplification. The research found that simplification efforts are not aligned with the importance of daily simplification goals, business complexity hinders performance and new technology adds barriers to achieving goals. The research points out that it does not have to be that way and the importance of business simplification will only become more imperative over time. In the same year, Deloitte published ‘Simplification of Work – The coming revolution‘ highlighting that to address the overwhelmed employee, simplification needs to become a priority for CEO’s today.

However, there are many barriers to simplifying a business or introducing work simplification:

• Mental space and time
• Conflicting priorities- day-to-day activities versus strategic (longer-term thinking)
• Negative mindsets
• Unwillingness or resistance to change
• Fear and anxiety about job security
• Layers of management
• Operational complexity
• Scepticism around the return on investment of time and money

In our experience the largest barrier to kickstarting the simplification process is the actual behaviour or attitude of the CEO. Every leader’s behaviour and attitude has a definitive effect on the organisation. For a simplifying program to be successful and to overcome the barriers, leadership must embrace the need to change, share the vision and objectives and ultimately be accountable for simplification in their daily decisions, communications, and managerial duties. The challenge in many cases is to quantify the return on investment especially in circumstances where investments in new systems, tools or capabilities are required yet the headcount (largest cost component of most businesses) remains the same.

In some instances there may not be a direct or simple return on investment that appeases the business owners or accountants. But what is the long term cost or business implication if the investment is not made. The cost of (and to) the overwhelmed employees could be substantial – presenteeism, absenteeism, attrition, conflict, poor performance, loss of productivity, loss of customers, loss of revenues – are these considered in the ROI calculation?

It’s just too hard!

However, until such time as we tackle head-on business or work simplification, unhealthy workspaces; opaqueness of the mind will continue for employees and leaders.

In the meantime, leaders will continue to focus on the effects of the unclear mind. Human resource departments get involved and tick a box and implement wellness programs such as yoga, meditation, or other short term initiatives to address the emotions and moods of the employees. But how do we know whether these wellness programs have actually worked (how do you measure the success?) and produced a return on investment? How long can one company sustain the investment? How long will the employees stay vested in the initiative before other priorities get in the way?

Ultimately, focusing solely on business simplification, wellness programs, workplace beautification or any other initiative in isolation will not produce the results businesses need to grow in this fast-changing, competitive global landscape.

What is really required is a clear vision for businesses to become Zymplified Workplaces.

What is a Zymplified Workplace?

A Zymplified Workplace is a business environment that has achieved synergy between two pillars – Zen (equanimity for our people, healthy and purposeful place) and Simplification (distilling and streamlining of processes and practices).

It is not about creating utopia!

It’s about finding the right balance in the business for employees to be mindfully present, working productively and harmoniously where the work itself is simplified, in a workplace that supports the health and wellness of your employees and aligns with your brand.

A Zymplified Workplace is where people, place, processes and practices are intimately interconnected.

 

 

They do not make sense in isolation. Focusing solely on one perspective, is in essence, an isolated project that may result only in short term success.

Let us look at these perspectives in their individual ways:

People

A CEO invested in a workplace wellness program – this CEO learned that over the last decade, many organisations have been focused on wellness in the workplace to support healthy behaviour as complexity in the workplace continues to grow. The CEO engaged experts in this field and communicated to his team that over for the foreseeable future, yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes would commence as these activities are proven to assist the mind. Initially, there was a mixture of excitement, appreciation and apprehension among the employees. In the first week, the majority of employees attended, in the second week – the numbers dropped off and by the fourth week, the instructors were thanked, and the program ended.

Is this a Zymplified Workplace?

Unfortunately, not! The program suffered from declining attendance as employees were reluctant to move away from their desks because of significant workloads. So, they came back to their desks and had to work harder and faster or stay back to complete the work – causing more anxiety, stress and impact on their personal life. Was this a direct result of the type or volume of work or inefficiencies in the business processes?

 

Processes

A CEO engaged an external business improvement consulting company to look at ways to improve productivity and reduce stress by removing complexity in the business. The business grew over time as did the number of spreadsheets, data duplications, employees performing similar and conflicting tasks, new rules and so forth.

After twelve months the company witnessed a vast improvement in productivity and were proud that they achieved a simpler work environment by investing in technology to automate mundane and repetitive tasks and processes and removed unnecessary rules.

Is this a Zymplified Workplace?

Unfortunately, not! The company still suffers from negative mindsets, conflict, unhappiness and strained relationships between employees and their managers.

 

Practice

A CEO documented and shared her vision and communicated the strategic plan. Each employee knew how they contributed to the vision, they achieved or exceeded set milestones, received several recognitions by third-party human resource workplace certifiers and results of the engagement surveys surpassed the previous years.

Is this a Zymplified Workplace?

Unfortunately, not! The company still suffers from conflict and stress as the workplace is still in desperate need for streamlining and decluttering. Its business processes and practices led to a lack of role clarity, duplication and mountains of data to produce reports to management.

 

Place

A CEO invested heavily in the physical workplace and created a modern, biophilic/ minimalist environment, fully catered lunch areas and setup rooms for a gymnasium and table tennis.

Is this a Zymplified Workplace?

Unfortunately, not! employees complained about being overworked, no company direction, lack of clarity, duplicate processes and work tasks, high attrition with no improvement in productivity or bottom-line results.

The four examples demonstrate how most businesses address matters and operate today. This occurs for various reasons; leadership mindset, time, resources and funding being typical barriers or excuses. Where in fact, what is required is a holistic, perpetual and fluid approach of the four (4) P’s turning together, continuously in the same direction advancing the business.

This is the heart of a Zymplified Workplace.

1 The stereotype stakeholders are typically your customers, suppliers, employees and owners
2 In practice, a much richer set of stakeholders may exist.
3 https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/business-simplification/
4 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2015/work-simplification-human-capital-trends-2015.html