4 Mindsets, 5 Behaviours and 4 Habits which will simplify your organisation


It’s in our DNA to both want simplicity, yet to also create complexity. We are successful because of an ingrained desire to: Advance, Adapt, Create, Control, Improve, Progress, Secure and Survive.

We cannot resist changing things, even if ‘progress’ actually makes things more complex. That’s at the individual level. There’s a significant multiplier effect when you consider different people with different motivations inside any organisation. It’s not hard to see how organisations become inherently complex systems.

In order to sustainably simplify an organisation, we need to go beyond just fixing or reducing the obvious. This makes a difference but will only get us so far. If we want lasting change, we need to change culture.

And as we know, easy that is not.

To make the first steps that little bit easier, we’ve designed a guiding set of Simplicity Mindsets, Behaviours and Habits. Individuals who adopt these will play their part in beginning to create a culture where simplicity can triumph complexity.





“Less usually creates more”

The conventional complexity-creating mindset:

•      Adding things but not taking them away

•      Believing that activity must translate to value

•      “If we can get the data for 10 KPIs, we should report 10 KPIs. In fact, 12 KPIs would be better and 15 KPIs better still”

The simplicity mindset

•      More of the right thing is better. More of everything is not

•      Generally, less provides more clarity and generates more value


“Busy doesn’t mean good”

The conventional complexity-creating mindset

•      Being busy has become a ‘badge of honour’

•      “If I am not busy, I’ll be seen as lazy”

•      “Get me. I worked all weekend on report XYZ. I get 200 emails per day. I spend all day every day in meetings”

The simplicity mindset

•      Being busy on the right things is great

•      ‘Busyness’ and being a ‘busy fool’ harms performance over a sustained period of time


“Time is the same as money”

The conventional complexity-creating mindset

•      Time is free and easy

•      Time is not discussed, planned or measured in the same way as money

•      For example, a person who sets up a meeting for 10 people, or sends an email to 100 people, is spending a significant amount of an organisation’s resources

The simplicity mindset

•      Every person, team and organisation has a limited time budget

•      Time should be treated as precious as money


“Everything must be perfect”

The conventional complexity-creating mindset

•      Every single activity must be absolutely perfect, regardless of the value created

•      For example, people working through the night on an internal presentation that makes little to no overall difference to the big picture

•      “What shade of grey does this text need to be? Shall I use font size 12.5 or 13?”

The simplicity mindset

•      For most internal activities, roughly right beats precisely wrong

•      For some critical activities, perfection should absolutely be pursued




Focus: The ability to identify and prioritise the things that will have the biggest impact on success, to the exclusion of everything else.

Examples of how Focus enables simplicity:

•      Not working on too many priorities

•      Not agreeing to new activity when capacity is already exhausted

•      Actively seeking and deleting low-value work


Clarity: The ability to provide well-defined direction and explain (sometimes complex) ideas in a way that can be easily understood by the majority of people.

Examples of how Clarity enables simplicity:

•      Being crystal clear how day-to-day activity relates to what really matters to an organisation

•      Avoiding ‘communication overload’. Being mindful of both the number of messages and the content of those messages

•      Making it clear what is critical information and what is noise


Collaboration: The willingness to work constructively and openly with other people to achieve shared goals.

Examples of how Collaboration enables simplicity:

•      Ensuring the right people are working on the right things

•      Avoiding too few people working on too many things and too many people working on too few things

•      Individuals and teams working with a common goal and a common understanding


Courage: The bravery to challenge harmful complexity wherever it exists and stopping activities that do not create high-value.

Examples of how Courage enables simplicity:

•      Expressing an honest opinion when seeing something which is obviously complex

•      Challenging out-dated, long-standing cultural norms

•      Challenging ourselves, our boss and our teams to find simpler ways

•      Refusing to become complacent with complexity


Empowerment: The willingness to trust a person or a team, giving them the power and support to do something themselves, without micromanaging.

Examples of how Empowerment enables simplicity:

•      Trusting others and delegating effectively so as to avoid work bottlenecks

•      When delegating, ensure micromanagement doesn’t diminish the benefits

•      Avoiding being sucked into low-value, unnecessary activity which can be better done by others




Say: No!


•      When somebody asks you to do something you don’t see value in

•      When you are asked to do an activity that prevents you from doing something more valuable


Ask: Why, why, why?


•      When you have an activity that has been done for a long time, but you don’t see the value in it

•      When you, or someone else, introduces a new activity


Ask: What could be simpler?


•      Periodically (e.g. monthly or quarterly) ask yourself and your teams for examples of complexity which could be simplified


Ask: How could this be simpler?


•      For any activity (no matter how seemingly simple or complex), consider how it could be simplified or minimalised

(Particularly relevant for long-standing activities, or activities which involve more than 3 people)


Takeaway: Sustainably transforming organisations from complex to simple is hard. It requires reversing cultural norms which have built up over time. However, there are a starter set of Mindsets, Behaviours and Habits which individuals can adopt. Individual by individual and team by team this can start a movement where simplicity, and not complexity, becomes the prominent way of working.