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Simplicity matters

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Simplicity matters

Scott Miker

When we start creating systems and processes in a business it is easy to let it become a complicated mess. There is a lot of complexity and we need to make sure the process accounts for many variables.

But as we do this, we should actively look for ways to simplify. It sounds much easier said than done, but if we keep this focus on simplicity we can cut through some of the unnecessary detail.

I previously worked on an Agile software development team as the product owner. I was responsible for creating the plan forward and making sure we knew where we were going as a team.

I recall many meetings where the developers would state something is much more difficult than I expected. It usually caught me by surprise so I would dive in and ask questions to find out why.

They liked to use the phrase “spaghetti code.” They said that there were so many one-off projects that asked for specific changes to the site that they now added up to become a huge mess that nobody had a handle on.

Usually this is due to a focus on making each customer happy in the moment. Customer A wants something different than everyone else and we do it. Customer B wants a different part changed for them and we do it.

Over time, with thousands of customers and individual customer customizations we found that now we can’t just change the general layout of a page because not every customer sees that page the same way.

This made even simple software changes complicated and made it difficult to respond quickly when a problem surfaced. A developer had to spend a significant amount of time trying to uncover all of the variations.

When you are starting to explore the systems that run your personal life, you might find some complexity interfering with your goals. You might want to budget your money but with all of the recurring and random expenses that come up it is impossible. You might want a better job but don’t see a way to do that in your current role and can’t just quit to go back to school.

But it isn’t impossible to simplify in order to improve the systems. Start to take a higher-level view of things. This often gives a different view and presents different options for you.

Then you can start to look for the simplest, easiest solution. Instead of getting into specific details, start to choose general areas. Then explore ways to improve those areas generally. Start to cut out unnecessary elements that add complexity but isn’t required or even valuable.

It takes time but we can all unravel the spaghetti code in our own lives. When we do, we are left with a much more manageable life. One that we can control and we can improve to take us towards the success and happiness that we desire.