Anti-Complexity Officer

By on October 10, 2013

We have enough complexity already. Consequently, we have less and less patience with suppliers that expect us to figure out how to do business with them.

Complexity_lrgWe have heard a lot in recent years about the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). How about an Anti-Complexity Officer whose job it is to advocate for simplified processes for customers? Some of the job duties would include allowing no compromises internally when the customer is involved. This role would also help the organization develop an attitude that looks for and eliminates process complexity whenever possible.

Business success certainly depends on adding value for your customers. But it also depends on reducing “headaches” for these customers, as well. The Anti-Complexity Officer can take on the responsibility of finding and eliminating the nuisance factors and the steps in your processes that seem illogical or even boring to customers. Customers need oxygen (Esslinger, A Fine Line). The ACO’s role would be to create process simplifications that the customer will notice—all designed to let customers breathe.

The classic Harvard Business Review article “Staple Yourself to an Order” (Shapiro, Rangan, and Sviokla) challenged us to manage the 20th century order cycle process to reduce the unnecessary problems that customers experienced at the order-level detail. The belief was that fewer problems would result in increased customer satisfaction and this was true for a while. Technology has now eliminated many of these errors.

In the 21st century, however, the “staple-yourself” concept has taken on a new meaning. Years ago, order errors may have been reduced but the process was still supplier-centric, built for the efficiency of the seller. Customer-centric organizations are now re-designing their processes with a customer orientation. The benefits are now seen in the context of customer loyalty and the brand positioning that caring about the customer delivers.

Warren Buffett has observed, “In the short term, the market is a voting machine. In the long term it is a weighing machine.” (The Snowball). The ACO will help build internal processes that optimize the delivery of complete solutions to customers, which, in turn, will make life easier for these customers. The ACO will focus the company on "what works for the customer" rather than what is efficient internally. This optimization will inevitably favor the long-term “weight” that the market will assign to your company.

A C-Level executive must own the processes that once grew out of convenience for the company and have ended up as inconveniences for customers—or, even worse, as unnecessarily frustrating for them. Call this person the Anti-Complexity Officer. Every touch-point that is confusing will eventually lead to customer defection. Create an organization that is focused on thinking like its customers. Create an organization that your customers will understand.

Vizualization of "Management of Complexity" by Michael Heiss

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