it’s perhaps the most basic of principles, and i partially hit on some primary ideas in my last posting, but it’s something that i just have to say:

keep it simple, stupid!

i’m from the school of thought that less is more. i believe in the cool serenity that is a simple design. simple means it’s easier; easier to understand (and explain!), easier to do, easier to manage, and—the part not many people think about—easier to maintain!

this is true for many things.

  • the way you design your solutions
  • the way you develop your systems
  • the way you draft your documents
  • and more!

when you keep things simple: (1) new employees or additions to your team will be able to more quickly adapt to the work you are doing and how you do it, (2) you reduce the number of steps in a process and therefore reduce failure points, and (3) improves your ability to answer questions regarding past work and to re-use and adapt work products for the future.

in a world of “work/life balance” where someone could be working half days, 3 days a week, have a flex day, or any of the multiple excused absences, you will have people coming and going on your work items constantly. either completely new members of the team, or even just members new to the work. the idea of “plug-and-play” should not be tethered to our electronic devices. we should strive to make all that we do plug-and-play because that is when you truly reap the benefits of efficiency in business. keep your processes and systems simple so that anyone can do the work. well, that is anyone with a little bit of coaching of course 😉

it’s well known that the more moving parts you have in a device, the greater chance of a failure happening with that device. helicopters cost more to maintain than airplanes, not because their parts are so high-tech, but because there are so many parts. there are more flight controls on an average helicopter than on many fighter jets that have a price tag that is many millions of dollars more. the same is true for information systems. i assure you that a process that has 7 steps to complete a goal has a much higher rate of failure than a system with 3 steps in place. the proper solution would be the one that automates the complex areas to make the process simpler for the end-user, therefore reducing possible points of failure.

proper documentation is the single most important thing a person can do to help make their job easier, no matter what area you work in. say something, and you’ll probably forget it. read it, you’ll remember a fair bit of it. but if you write it then read it, you’ll remember a lot more. add that on to your actually doing the work, and you’ll retain more information yourself. so when someone asks you “a question” about “a thing” you don’t even have to refer back to the documentation because you’ve got it all up in your brain! plus, a lot of the work that we do is repetitive. query structures are used again—like finding participants “in payment” or “outstanding credits”—in multiple requests. keeping things simple in your documentation means knowing exactly what areas to look for, and being able to efficiently find the information you’re trying to find. simple documentation helps understand what went on in the past, and makes those portions that can be re-used readily available.

exercises for a simpler you!

  • as an exercise to try yourself… the next time you do something in work, pick anything—perhaps the one thing you do the most—and when you’re doing it map out the process. what steps are involved. don’t ask any questions yet, go all the way through to completion. once you’re done, go back at your list of steps and ask these 2 questions of each one: “why is this here?” and “is there a way i can make this better?”

  • another exercise to try… the next time you read over a document, take each section and ask the following 3 questions:

  1. what is the purpose of this section?
  2. does this section meet its intended purpose?
  3. how well does this section meet its intended purpose, if at all?