This difference between complexity and complication is more than semantic. Grandmasters in chess, for example, are successful because they apply a certain amount of cognitive complexity up front. By doing this they can view large chunks of the chessboard, whereas amateurs see a mass of individual pieces. In practice, this makes the game much more complicated for less skilled players and makes novices less successful when they play.
A key difference between complexity and complication is that complexity has a coherent architecture and can be effectively managed. In contrast, complication is largely random and therefore becomes unmanageable over time. Large enterprises and large enterprise projects regularly struggle, not because they are too complex, but because they are too complicated.
Velocity is the Bottom Line
In the late 1990s, I was interviewed for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ book, Business at the Speed of Thought. In his book, Gates emphasizes that the past was about reengineering but the future depends on velocity. With knowledge work, velocity is at the heart of the productivity opportunity. Sustainable success is not simply driven by urgency, because you can urgently go in the wrong direction. Knowledge work productivity is not about speed or direction. Similar to velocity, it is a function of speed and direction.
Consistent with the enterprise velocity equation, Peter Drucker wrote that the three dimensions of an economic task were to make the present business effective, identify and realize its potential, and make it into a different business for a different future. In our rapidly changing global economy, this needs to be accelerated.
The four-part knowledge work productivity mantra based on the social sciences requires that companies manage their projects tied to four fundamental questions. If you can’t clearly articulate the answer to these questions within and across your organizational silos your project will have no chance of being accelerated.
- Where do we intend to go and Why?
- What needs to happen When?
- How can those things best get done?
- Who is going to be responsible for which tasks?
The knowledge work productivity management system is to enterprise projects what competition is to capitalism. It breathes life into it, creates order out of chaos, and improves enterprise velocity. Drucker wrote that doing this was essential to economic tasks. It is also essential to enterprise reinvention and our long term economic prosperity.
Jack Bergstrand is author of Reinvent Your Enterprise, creator of the Strategic Profiling enterprise project acceleration tool, the Action Planning workshop, and founder of Brand Velocity, the project acceleration company. Prior to founding Brand Velocity, he was chief information officer of The Coca-Cola Company and chief financial officer of Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd.