Modern businesses are enmeshed in a web of complexities. These complexities often lead to inefficiencies, reduced effectiveness, and decreased employee morale. However, the integration of the BCG / Yves Morieux's "Six Simple Rules", the SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers) model, and the role of middle managers offers a way forward.
In his "Six Simple Rules" book, Morieux uses the 4x100m relay race as an analogy and this paper continues with the same analogy to provide a perspective on how these elements intersect to address organisational complexity and foster operational excellence.
Six Simple Rules and the 4x100m Relay Analogy
Rule 1: Understand What People Really Do
This rule advises businesses to go beyond the façade of job descriptions to truly understand the nature of tasks and roles. This provides insights into potential bottlenecks, dysfunctional behaviours driven by misaligned metrics or poor inter-team collaboration and opportunities for improvement in general. It's akin to recognising that a runner is not just about speed but also about technique, stamina, and team coordination. In organisations, this deep understanding allows for better resource allocation and performance metrics that are genuinely indicative of one's contributions.
Rule 2: Reinforce Integrators
This principle focuses on strengthening the roles of individuals who act as links between different departments or functions. Much like how a relay team needs to coordinate its efforts to ensure that everyone is in sync, businesses need integrators to align disparate elements. These integrators can and should be middle managers who coordinate between top management and operational levels.
Rule 3: Increase Total Quantity of Power
Centralised decision-making often leads to bottlenecks and delays. This rule promotes the distribution of decision-making authority. In the context of a relay, it's like allowing each runner to adapt their strategies based on their real-time assessment of the race, rather than adhering to a fixed plan.
Rule 4: Increase Reciprocity
This rule encourages understanding inter-departmental dependencies, fostering a system where units must cooperate for mutual success. In a relay, no runner can succeed unless the previous one does a great job in both running a great leg and handing over the baton. They are mutually dependent, and this interdependency encourages team members to support one another actively.
Rule 5: Extend the Shadow of the Future
Creating a direct line of sight between actions and their consequences encourages responsible behaviour. This means having frequent (daily, weekly, bimonthly) metrics by which all parties can see feedback on how the execution and the interdependencies are performing. In a relay, each runner knows that a fumbled baton provides immediate feedback and can cost the team the race, making them acutely aware of their responsibility.
Rule 6: Reward Those Who Cooperate
Traditional performance metrics often focus solely on individual people or team accomplishments. This rule advocates for a shift towards metrics that also reward teamwork and inter-team cooperation. In a relay, while individual speed is crucial, the smooth handoff of the baton is equally important and should be considered when assessing a team's performance.
The Relevance of the 4x100m Relay Analogy
Morieux’s 4x100m relay analogy provides a tangible understanding of these rules. The race isn't won by individual speed alone; the baton handoff is pivotal. A smooth transition ensures that the speed of one runner is efficiently transferred to the next, emphasising the need for reciprocity and cooperation, which are the crux of Rules 4 and 6.
The Utility of SIPOC in Unveiling Complexity
What SIPOC Brings to the Table
SIPOC, standing for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers, is a high-level process map. It complements Morieux’s rules by providing a tangible framework for implementation. Its development and management is akin to the rigorous training and coordination that a relay team undertakes before the actual race.
How SIPOC Intersects with the Six Rules
Each component in a SIPOC model can be fine-tuned by applying the Six Simple Rules. For instance, “Suppliers” can be better integrated using Rules 2 and 4, and “Processes” can be made more efficient by applying Rule 1 to understand the tasks involved genuinely.
Middle Management as the Linchpin
The Integrators in Action
Middle managers can and should be the actual 'integrators' in an organisation. They bridge the gap between the strategic goals set by upper management and the operational execution by frontline employees. Using tools like SIPOC, they can align complex processes with the organisation’s strategic vision, acting as multipliers of efficiency and effectiveness.
Middle managers, equipped with insights from SIPOCs and the Six Rules, can create an environment that fosters cooperation, decentralises decision-making, and focuses on both individual and collective performance metrics.
Organisational complexity requires a multi-faceted approach for effective navigation. Yves Morieux's "Six Simple Rules" offer a theoretical framework, the SIPOC model provides a practical methodology, and middle managers serve as the linchpin that brings these elements together. Their intersection creates a robust system capable of tackling complexity at various levels, fostering a culture of operational excellence. By reframing complexity as an opportunity rather than a challenge, organisations can unlock new avenues for innovation, efficiency, and sustained growth.