For some time it has been fashionable to describe businesses and organisations as “complex adaptive systems”. The phrase sounds learned. It is a cousin of that other knowing statement: that leaders need to be “comfortable with ambiguity”.
Well, yes. It is a turbulent world. It is hard to be certain about the future. But isn’t part of the problem for business leaders that life is in fact too complicated? Particularly in larger organisations, the legacy of old structures and traditions adds to this complexity. It is easy to lose sight of priorities. No wonder that, these days, the role of chief executive is often described as being an impossible job.
Five principles describe how the most focused and successful businesses are designed: self-awareness, principles, distributed leadership, closed feedback loop, and small number of key operating measures.