Out of the complexity trap - 6 effective tips

Over the decades, Executive Coach Dorette Segschneider has filtered out six tips that help out of the complexity trap.

When you bake a cake, just follow the baking instructions - step by step. If you strictly follow the given recipe, a pleasing result is almost guaranteed. Building an aeroplane is a different matter - the requirements are highly complex. So is the world in which we live. "It's no longer enough to unpack the old familiar baking recipe and hope for guaranteed success," says Dorette Segschneider. "Executives come to coaching again and again with the desire to get just such a baking recipe. They are looking for certainty, but we don't have that anymore. Emergencies teach us the ability to find solutions in difficult situations. It is precisely this ability that executives need to make decisions in confusing situations and to lead in a complex world," Dorette Segschneider continues.

"'What is the decisive tip, how should I react when the situation is complicated, complex and unclear?'" many managers ask me," says Dorette Segschneider. For those who want to learn how to manage complex situations successfully, she has developed a 6-step plan:

  1. Create clarity. Pick up people - your employees - where they are emotionally at the moment and communicate clearly and authoritatively. Clarity in communication is more important than the consistency. The super-GAU for any human being is uncertainty. When employees don't know what is happening or what will happen, they think about that uncertainty instead of working on solutions. As a rule, the error rate then also increases. People need clarity.
  2. Choose a direction instead of a destination. Especially in complex situations, when the goal is unclear, employees need advice on the journey. Even though the natural law that things change applies more than ever in today's world, most people like to hold on to the tried and true. They are sceptical of change. Therefore: Make sure your team knows the direction.
  3. Create a framework for decision making. Use the explorers' navigation technique: if a group were lost in a deep forest or jungle, they would send a scout into the treetops to get a broader perspective, determine a location, and then pass this new perspective on to the group on the ground so they could move forward with better information about the landscape they were in.
  4. Create a checklist for decision making. Use the swarm intelligence of your team and ask questions: What can we do better? Is the decision reversible? Can we change it later? The bigger the decision, the more critical it is to question it. What happens if a vital point is missed? Have we thought around the corner? Did we look for different and divergent perspectives? Who has the best expertise to solve the problem? What is missing? What are the patterns? Who has experience with the current challenge? What can we learn from the past? Can we simply build on familiar patterns, or do we need to develop a new way? How do we adapt? etc.
  5. Focus on the process, not the result. Anyone who has ever climbed a mountain knows: Even the Himalayas are mounted with the first step. As in mountaineering, slow but steady progress is the way to go - especially in complex situations! Overestimating oneself or misjudging the problem does not have to have fatal consequences - as it does on the mountain. Nevertheless, in difficult situations, it is better to take a step back or, in some cases, simply get a guide or advisor - as in mountaineering - because this is not only safer but also instructive.
  6. Create transparency! If you have made a decision, be transparent and communicate the contents to your employees! Why did you make this decision? Explain the context and the story of how the decision came about. Transparency is the key!

"If you go into the decision-making process with a positive attitude, it builds trust," Segschneider is convinced. "The more complex the situation, the more important it is to follow a transparent and simple process."