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Despite widespread agreement that organizational complexity creates big problems by making it hard to get things done, few executives have a realistic understanding of how complexity actually affects their own companies. When pressed, many leaders cite the institutional manifestations of complexity they personally experience: the number of countries the company operates in, for instance, or the number of brands or people they manage. By contrast, relatively few executives consider the forms of individual complexity that the vast majority of their employees face-for example poor processes, confusing role definitions, or unclear accountabilities.
This is not a trivial difference in perception. Experience suggests that such a disconnect highlights a blind spot many executives have when it comes to managing complexity effectively. A focus on institutional complexity at the expense of the individual kind can lead to wasted effort or even organizational damage. What's more, failing to tackle complexity as most people experience it can, as we've shown before, be financially costly.
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