Complexity — Deal With It

Big Red Car here. Going to have thunderstorms in the ATX today.

Be careful. Likely no top down today. So The Boss is talking to one of his brilliant CEOs and they get on the subject of how complex everything is today.
A truth that is more and more apparent every day. Bottom line what can you really do about it all? Like any large undertaking, you have to break it down to its constituent parts and take them one at a time.

How does one eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

 When The Boss was building high rise office buildings, he would break the building itself down into the following components:

Geotech (subsurface);
Foundation preparation;
Waterproofing;
Foundation;
Superstructure;
Envelope;
Windows;
Roof;
Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection; communication systems;
Vertical transportation;
Lobby finishes;
Interior finishes;and,
Restroom finishes.

In this manner what could have been overwhelming was reduced to a single consideration at any given instant in time. Each of these individual components had their own subsystem of complexity to be further subdivided until you reached a granular level. One bit indeed.

Take as an example windows:

Window attachment method;
Window frame;
Window caulk;
Window glass;
Window gaskets;
Glass replacement;
Energy implications;
Reflectivity;
Long term cleaning methodology; and,
Testing the completed assembly. 

Once the window type had been specified and selected using performance criteria based competitive bidding, a chart was made to double check each of these components. Then as they were installed, each window was tested for compliance. Even in a 1,000 window building each window was its own little project until all windows had been certified. Then a random test was conducted to ensure compliance with the specifications and to ensure performance. When diligently done, the failure rate was typically less than 1%. These windows were repaired and retested.

In construction, as in life, you get what you INSPECT not what you EXPECT.
Because the contractors knew their work would be tested, they all did it right the first time.

In the complex things you and your business do, a technique to reduce the tension, complexity and confusion is to break each and every system, product into its essential components and focus on them one by one. Then test the results and move on to the next component. In this manner, complexity is reduced to simplicity.

How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time with Tabasco.

Need a bit of help? Call The Boss at 512-656-1383, drop him an email jminch2011@gmail.com or Skype him at “jeffminch”. He will be glad to help cause that’s what he does.

But, hey what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be kind to someone today who is not expecting it. It’s great fun to see their reaction and you are THAT guy! 

  • Vinod

    Thanks JLM, As they say one step at a time.

  • Great advice. Thanks

  • Alex Wolf

    BRC, I’m a hue fan of complexity theory, essentially a theory of very simple parts assembled in particular orders. It’s how I build what I build at na2ure, pack and unpack, ad infinitum, until a 5 year old and a PhD agree. And I’m happy with the design 😉

    Impressive building. As you know I detested real estate, but appreciate those who make it sing.

  • you get what you INSPECT not what you EXPECT–motto on Richard Duchiossois desk. He was a tank destroyer commander in WW2.

  • “That guy” with guy being generic, right? 😉

    My 17 y.o. daughter has been doing little acts of kindness for strangers, sometimes anonymously. She is having a blast.

    This advice about breaking down complex projects into smaller bits is timely as I think about taking my business to the next level. My job is so focused on helping others to build their businesses (one hire at a time) that I sometimes forget that I am building one too. I am so inspired by these founders, many of them a decade or more younger than me.

    When I saw the photo (impressive BTW) I thought how nice it must be to build something visible, to see the progress as it occurs. You have that to some extent with a business, some more than others. I realize that I must envision more, see the business that I am building. It helps to review the balance sheet, client list, jobs filled, to remind myself I am making progress. And for a long while that progress wasn’t as visible…it was learning, forming relationships, reinventing… but always it is consistently just doing the work, day in, day out. But there has to be a larger guiding plan.