Simple vs Complex

“Combat, like anything in life, has inherent layers of complexity. Simplify as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them.”

-Jacko Willink

I am relatively young in my career. I have worked my way up from administrative assistant to now coordinator over a reasonably large program. I am a supervisor for around 20-30 contacted employees, and one of the first lessons I ever learned was to keep things simple.

My boss is all about growth and is not threatened by the idea of his employees climbing the ladder. He considers our success his success. With that being said, he also allows us to make mistakes—those mistakes we are expected to own and learn from the experience. 

Just like the quote above from Jacko Willink, communicating direction and expectations simply and straightforwardly helps everyone all the way around. In my experience, I could not keep the mission simple, and I could not communicate it to my staff. The lack of this caused months of mass confusion and a lot of extra work. I went into implementing a program with many ideas and couldn’t pull off everything I had planned. Once I had realized my mistakes in this under-taking, I sat down, found my issues, come up with solutions, and moved forward from there. 

After I had cleaned up my mess, I sat down with my supervisor to evaluate my performance. The entire time he had known what my issues were but wanted me to have the skills to solve the problem. Collectively we planned out the next few next steps and goals, and he encouraged me to continue to take ownership of the situation. 

With issues, COVID-19 brought I was assigned a new program, expected to plan and execute the program to its fullest. With this new undertaking, I was able to achieve my mission in a much more efficient fashion. With remembering to keep my directions concise and straightforward, success was much easier to achieve. 

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme ownership: how U.S. Navy SEALs lead and win. Second edition. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

6 thoughts on “Simple vs Complex

  1. Jae,

    Giving too much information is a common issue when it comes to new leaders in my opinion. I am glad that you were able to recognize the issue and come up with a solution. I have seen leaders who give too much information which causes confusion and will blame their subordinates for not understanding the intent of the mission/project. This in turn causes deadlines to constantly be missed while simultaneously causing the environment to grow toxic. I will say that you are in a very fortunate to have a boss that sees the employees success as their own, Having a supervisor/boss that is threatened by the employees success only causes a toxic environment which will hinder the company’s success. I enjoyed this post thank you for sharing and looking forward to the next one.

    Andreius

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  2. Jae,

    Reading through some of our classmates blogs and work they have completed, we seem to be all hitting home on a certain theme of “mistakes are okay”. I have always had the fear of failure growing up but without mistakes many ideas would not come to fruition. Mistakes are what makes change and innovation.

    From my experience within my careers, mistakes will continue to happen so don’t let them bring you down! It is part of us continuing to grow.

    Congratulations on your success!

    Katie

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  3. Jae,

    This is a very interesting topic. During my undergraduate career I had one professor who really loved to write. Every email sent, announcement made, assignment instruction created, or student question answered was long and overly drawn out to the point of confusion. In between critical information seemed to be a lot of extra random thoughts, information, and fluff. There was one incident where the instructions for a deliverable seemed to have an overload of sporadic information and at times the information seemed to contradict itself. No one in the class clearly understood the deliverable despite the almost two page description, so we emailed the professor for a more clarification. He responded with a blackboard announcement that I’d say was another full page and a half of writing. Sad thing is, the entire class was still weary of the assignment. The clarification was just as dense and sporadic as the original instructions. I can only imagine that trying to convey an overly complex set of instructions with multiple moving parts to a room full of employees. There will be a lot of follow up questions. I agree that in many situations, like leading a project, simplicity and directness are much more efficient and effective.

    Great review,
    Courtney Wright

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  4. Jae,

    Wonderful review! I personally believe attempting to quickly complete a complex task can be mentally draining. This is why it is important to plan ahead and construct a plan. Some things simply cannot be accomplished within a limited time-frame. Ensuring time is used effectively is bound to assist with reaching a goal.

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  5. Thank you for sharing. I have been guilty of trying to complete difficult tasks without having a full plan in place of how I was going to complete it. Needless to say, by doing this I only created more work for myself. I think you are one of the lucky one that has a boss that recognizes accomplishments of their employees and aren’t threatened by them.

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  6. Jae,

    Awesome insight! I agree, keeping things short and simple allows for less confusion. Lucky for you, you have a boss that will allow you to figure out your mistakes and not place any kind of stress on you, as I have personally seen for myself. Currently, I work alongside a supervisor that puts nothing but complex situations onto herself every day. The stress of having to complete all these tasks would not be as difficult for her if she learned how to communicate with others and ask for assistance. Good leadership alongside other strategies can help combat workplace issues.

    Like

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