It is tempting to want to simplify systems of work. It is also risky and costly.
You can only force simplicity on an inherently complex reality by investing in boundary constraints. It’s expensive.
Those constraints will always be fragile, allowing the complexity to flood in at the one time you don’t want it – a failure. It’s vulnerable.
It is necessary to design systems and processes, and create a culture of behaviour, which are adaptable and resilient. Simplification achieves neither.
Work systems aren’t machines. A business is not a.more complicated car. They’re sociotechnical adaptive complex systems. Attempting to reduce them to a simple mechanistic description is unproductive, misleading, and doomed.
We do need to have a common understanding of how things work, and try to track it.
In some situations, work will be regular enough that we can codify it as a simple process.
It’s sometimes even economic to force it to be simple, such as in a factory production line.
But in all cases it’s a delusion that it really is simple/known, it’s an approximation to make us feel in control.
So even where it seems we have a known process, we must always bear in mind that it’s not really, that unexpected behaviors and/or changing environment can emerge at a moment’s notice, so we must be resilient to the shift and ready to adapt. It’s not an exception condition, it’s just an alternate mode of working to slip out of simple and known, until maybe we can get back there again.
The norm in businesses still running on 20th Century principles is to be fragile and inflexible, and treat a shift out of simple as a crisis.