Why do people feel so miserable and disengaged at work? In his TEDx Talk below, director of the BCG Institute for Organization Yves Morieux theorizes that companies are too complex. This complexity causes individual employees to suffer. Check out his talk below, wherein Morieux offers six rules for how “smart simplicity” can streamline the workplace.
Morieux notices a trend in today’s workforce: Despite so many advancements, employees are actively disengaged. He thinks this is because so many company frameworks are built on obsolete pillars—either on hard or soft structure systems.
To understand what he’s talking about, we need a quick lesson in structure systems: A hard structure system is one that complicates things unnecessarily. This 2004 study from IEEE International defines hard structure systems as “the relationship between all the activities which are required by its organization to complete its physical functions, and which does not consider the pursuit of people’s interests.” In other words, hard structure systems “solve” problems by adding more layers of middle management to deal with problems. The hard approach is unable to foster cooperation. It can only add new boxes, more problems, more money. But Morieux points out that doing so just adds more levels at which problems might arise.
A soft structure system, on the other hand, is one that focuses on individual feelings and emotions. The same study defines soft structure systems as “the relationship among all the factors of interest coordination, which takes into account of the pursuit of people’s interests to support the hard structure functions.” The soft approach says that for people to cooperate we must make them like each other, but Morieux says this is totally wrong and in fact counterproductive: the more we like each other, the more we avoid the real cooperation that would strain our relationships by imposing tough tradeoffs.
So, hard structure systems create the environment which make soft structure systems necessary. They go hand-in-hand; one only exists because the other creates a need for it. But according to Morieux both are obsolete.
In business, when different levels of any company don’t cooperate, we must constantly add more resources to make things work. Imagine a department in a company that produces consistently low results: in many cases, the company will “solve” this problem by hiring a new manager for the struggling department. Who will pay for that? Not the customers or shareholders, Morieux claims, because they’ll refuse and the market won’t bear it. Instead, when a company functions ineffectively and the cost of productivity increases, it’s the employees who bear the brunt of the cost. This can manifest via stress, burnout, fatigue, and even workplace accidents. No wonder employees disengage!
Morieux’s solution to all of this unnecessary complication of the workplace is his Smart Simplicity Approach. By embracing these rules, companies can replace the outdated hard- and soft-structure frameworks, and get their business running more efficiently, inexpensively, and most important, happily.
The real battle, Morieux says, is not against competitors. The real battle is against ourselves, our bureaucracy, and our rules. If we can streamline these clunky outdated practices by following these six rules, we can create more value with lower cost.
Camille Fairbanks was born and raised in Arizona and now resides in Lethbridge, AB. She received her BA in English from the University of Lethbridge; she now raises her children and her garden full time, and enjoys writing about minimalism and the Zero Waste lifestyle on her blog, The Non-Waster.