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Complexity Is The Enemy Of Execution


Have you ever seen someone shoot themselves in their own foot simply by overthinking something?  How about that guy who thought of everything but the one essential thing that was needed?  Perhaps you have done this.  I know I have.  We often want to do a great job at everything we do, but we sometimes fall short because we over-complicate something that would have been great just being simple.

Missing The Forrest For The Trees

I am sure we have all heard this saying.  This is where we are so focused on one thing that we tend to miss the obvious.  Anytime we don’t fully understand the outcome we want from something, we tend to complicate things.  Too many times we focus on all the tiny details of things and miss the big picture.  These tiny details are more work, more effort, and an over-complication that is often not needed or desired.

The Weed Eater

Has your spouse ever asked you to pick up something basic from the store, like a weed eater?  Instead of getting the basic one they asked for, you buy the one that has three power levels, advanced cutting line, and could cut down a tree if you were persistent enough.  You proudly present what you have purchased.  They immediately say that is not what they asked for but you sell them on why it’s the best.  They give in and say they will give it a try.

One month later your spouse is weed eating outside and you notice they are not using the powerful weed eater you bought, but a puny little one that your weed eater could chew up and spit out.  You ask them why?  The answer is simple.  They just wanted to cut some weeds around the fence, not take the fence down.  The one you bought is powerful for sure, but it also weighs more, is very bulky, and runs on a mixture of gas and oil.  Who feels like dealing with all that just to cut some little blades of grass???

“But it has to…”

I was often guilty of over-complicating software I would build.  Along with my team, I as the lead, built this great piece of software that will reprice items on Amazon, search for new listings, and help manage your entire Amazon Marketplace experience.  The software included a distributed system that runs across a variety of servers so that the solution could scale and service the world.  I personally spent about 18 months working on it, with some customers using it.  Additionally, I brought a team in to work with me on it every weekend for about 3 months as well.

Whenever I thought it was ready, I would think, “But it has to…”  It always needed more.  It was never good enough.  I over complicated the entire solution before I even proved the software would sell.  Long story short is that the software never went fully to market.  I do have one customer using it.  They have been using it and paying for it for about six years now.  Had I not over-complicated the whole thing, we could have taken it to market, found its limitations faster, and built something even better.  The complexity of the software was an enemy of it’s execution.  It’s execution being taking it to a larger market.  Sure, one company is using it, but had I not over-complicated it, maybe a thousand companies would be using it.

Think In Outcomes

Tony Robbins always says we should think in outcomes.  We should think first about what outcome we want from anything we do and then determine the tasks needed to get there.  By thinking in outcomes first, we can identify the bare minimum of what is needed and make a plan for simple execution.  Sure, once we have the basic outcome met, we can decide to do more, but until we meet our basic outcome, complexity should be avoided at all costs.

Final Thoughts

Too many times complexity affects our performance.  Whether we are overthinking scoring a touchdown, building some software, or doing chores around the house, the tendency to over-complicate things is there.  By thinking in outcomes, we can identify the minimum result we want and then work to execute on that.  Of course we can do better, but meet the minimum requirements first rather than trying to solve world hunger all at once.  

You may be thinking that the 5and2Guy has just over-complicated a simple message with multiple paragraphs of explanations and examples.  And you may be right.  I guess I could have simply said that you can avoid complexity and deliver on execution with just a little KISS

“Keep It Simple Stupid!!!”

Don’t let complexity ruin your success.  Keep it simple, save some time, and deliver your best!!!

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