Suppose you need to reduce, simplify, or streamline a project. That seems to be an easily enough understood strategic thinking objective requiring basic strategic thinking skills.

Yet, how many times do you see an attempt to simplify a project lead to more complication?

Don't Rube Goldberg Your Way to Simple

It's sort of a Rube Goldberg phenomenon. Rube Goldberg was the cartoonist that would concoct elaborate sequences of complex steps all intended to perform some task or achieve a result that could have been simply done in one step...if someone had just done it.


Having seen this Rube Goldberg phenomenon play out any number of times in big corporations (and, admittedly, having been a part of creating some of them), it typically follows a familiar pattern.

  • Everyone acknowledges the need to cut time, cost, or some other resources required for a project.
  • Instead of also agreeing to a commensurate modification in the project's objective (or what it is trying to achieve), a group starts coming up with ideas to begin cutting things.
  • One or more participants in the group “agree” to reducing things, but all ideas are filtered against how they can still deliver the original objective.

The result is a new series of steps that seem small and less significant, but that really add complexity, non-standard activities, and multiple hoops to the process. Those translate to more time, costs, and other resources that you were trying to reduce in the first place.

Focusing Strategic Thinking Skills on Simplifying Expectations

If you need to do something more simply, make sure you target your strategic thinking skills to simplify the expectations for your strategic thinking objective BEFORE you start trying to simplify anything else. – Mike Brown



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