How to Manage Complex Organizations with Simple Rules

In the age of algorithms, artificial intelligence and system processing to aid decision-making, using simple rules to manage large organizations may sound counterintuitive. But the uncertainty of today’s operating environment often requires companies to shape their strategies in a way that allows them to adjust their approach to challenges. Simple rules are procedures that allow complex organizations to focus their attention and simplify complicated problems. Using just a few guidelines that can be tailored to either a specific activity or decision within your organization can be very helpful when navigating difficult situations.


Simple rules are valuable in a complex world because they narrow the aperture on the way that you process complex information and evaluate what is most important. In certain cases, meeting uncertainty with complexity can create even more confusion so it is important to maintain focus on the situation at hand and manage your organization accordingly. There are simple rules that can be applied to your organization that will allow you to implement the best strategies and adapt to changing circumstances and environments.


Align Activities with Objectives 

A clear objective will allow you to precisely define what you want to accomplish. Objectives should be precise so that you can adjust your actions in accordance with the company’s overarching goals. Setting a clear direction – whether it be cutting costs, growing revenues or reaching new customers – will allow you to clearly focus on effective strategies that accomplish your organization’s objectives. With this simple rule, key decisions will accordingly align with the bigger picture within complex organizations. This rule allows individuals to critically evaluate problems and avoid the paralysis that could arise from the evaluation of an array of alternatives. Each activity or decision made within a seemingly complex organization should be questioned as to whether it accomplishes a company’s desired outcome.


Prioritize Coordination 

Oftentimes strategies fail because there is insufficient coordination within an organization and teams have perspectives that are not aligned. It is essential to coordinate activities across the entirety of complex organizations so each individual will be aware of the most effective strategies or practices to implement when challenges arise. By applying this simple rule, there will be an explicit agreement across units that will then guide decision-making. Additionally, by evaluating decisions in accordance with the entire company, individuals will be more likely to consider how their activities influence a variety of departments, resulting in fewer decisions being guided by emotion or self-interest. Using this simple rule will provide clear guidance that works to align all systems and individuals within a complex organization.


Adapt to Changing Circumstances

Evolving, developing and dynamic environments require that complex organizations continually adjust their practices. To fit the demands of their current environment, organizations should be willing to modify their strategies to evolve with the market. No single strategy or practice lasts forever. Therefore, making a commitment to optimize organizational effectiveness will help even the most complex organizations ensure organizational development and implementation of continuous process improvements. As your organization grows in complexity, it is valuable to prioritize your commitment to adjust activities to the current market. This simple rule will create benefits that drive organizational effectiveness and efficiency through the implementation of the best business practices.


Implement the Most Effective Practices

Complex scenarios do not always require the application of the most complex solutions. Rather, an understanding of the most efficient practices will create more effective outcomes. Complicated models can create many disadvantages relative to simple solutions and useful practices. Therefore, learning best practices through dedicated course work and hands-on experience will help leaders build effective decision-making skills. This simple rule will allow you to manage complex organizations through correctly implementing only necessary and advantageous actions.


Learn How to Manage Your Organization

Interested in learning how to implement simple rules to manage your organization? The Institute for Defense and Business has specific program offerings that will help you learn the best practices to build your organization’s effectiveness. The LCELP: Life Cycle Executive Leadership Program covers topics including the best strategies to manage evolving life cycle systems and emerging life cycle technologies. There are several benefits of this program, including learning methods to reduce supply chain costs and the skills necessary to manage people and processes effectively. Additionally, LOGTECH Advanced evaluates trends in defense logistics technology and innovation as well as the emerging threats that can help manage risk.


About IDB 

The Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) delivers educational programs and research to teach, challenge and inspire leaders who work with and within the defense enterprise to achieve next-level results for their organization. IDB features curriculum in Logistics, Supply Chain and Life Cycle Management, Complex Industrial Leadership, Strategic Studies, Global Business and Defense Studies, Continuous Process Improvement, and Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction. Visit or contact us on our website for more information.




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