Simple work is anything but

Work exists on a spectrum from familiar to exploratory. I wrote a book, Standard+Case, about it.  In recent years, I’ve absorbed the principles of complexity, and I’m rewriting that book.

I’ve learned about

The “cliff” between Clear and Chaotic in the Cynefin model.

How all systems are broken and routine work is a feat, in How Complex Systems Fail, by Dr Richard Cook.

How we all have differing models of reality in digital systems, in The Stella Report.

And I’m sure there is good Deming and Ackoff on this


I now regard simple work as anything but. That lulls us into a false sense of security. Resilience is everything.


Adaptability = reliance + agility.

Standardizing work diminishes agility too.  Especially when we standardised through automation.  Automation diminishes out ability to change quickly.  It sacrifices agility for efficiency by encoding practice in machines.

Automation also diminishes agility (and resilience) by reducing knowledge  and skill in the process. It makes us rusty, we lose practice in doing the work manually. And reduces the learning opportunities for new staff.



The Standard+Case book explained how not all work is defined and repeatable, that change keeps introducing new unfamiliar work. But I bought I to the aspiration to standardise (and then automate) as much work as possible. I want to modify that in the new version to be one possible path for our knowledge of the work to take, that some work becomes familiar enough to be standardised. I will expand on how much work will never become standard, that the world changes too much; and that there is too much underlying complexity lurking for us ever to get that complacent.