Less is the Key to Success

Robert I. Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University published a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Bosses Should Ask Employees to Do Less—Not More.” He makes some key points that resonated for me surrounding the notion of needless organizational complexity.
“When leaders pile on staff, gizmos, software, meetings, rules, training and management fads,” he writes, “organizations become too complicated, their people get overwhelmed and exhausted. Their resources are spread so thin that all their work suffers.”
Instead he recommends the opposite approach, “less, less, less—is the key to success,” he writes. The article continues: “Subtraction clears our minds and gives us time to focus on what really counts. It sets the stage for creative work, giving us the space to fail, fret, discuss, argue about and experiment with seemingly crazy ideas—the ideas that can transform a company, and make employees happier and more productive.”
As a nonprofit grows, complexity grows alongside it. At some point the organization needs to create a more formal management structure. In a growing organization, hierarchy is a good thing. A manager tunes the structure and process to fit the work and the people, then urges employees to make and take responsibility for decisions. Leaders need to create a decentralized structure, processes and culture so that people can efficiently make decisions and get the information required to do their jobs. Less is the key to success.
  • Has your organization become too complex?
  • How can you do more, with less?