Complexity ruins processes (and Super Bowl prospects!)

Wipe out complexity to guard against being like those football teams that will be sitting at home on Super Bowl Sunday. Use these 4 tips to beat process complexity, and get in the game!


While some may argue that the World Cup or the UEFA Champions League Final are bigger, there’s no denying the immense worldwide impact of the Super Bowl.  

Even non-football fans will be among the more than 110 million TV viewers watching Super Bowl LII on February 4. The game itself is expected to have a $400 million economic impact on host city Minneapolis, with over 150,000 out-of-town visitors and nearly 6,000 members of the media descending on the site.

All of which got us to thinking about the players in Super Bowl LII. None of them – even stars like Tom Brady – simply cruised into this game. Every one of them has been under immense pressure from coaches, competitors, fans, and even themselves to perform at the highest level, week after week.

What is it that separates these players from so many others, and takes them to the pinnacle of their profession? 

Focus on producing results.

While everyone is different, the one trait that successful individuals tend to share – regardless of whether we’re talking about sports or business – is their ability to control natural human reactions to pressure. Whether they’re in the Super Bowl or the boardroom, these “stars” possess an uncanny ability to, in the words of NFL Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh, “concentrate on what will produce results, rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize”. 

Like Walsh, successful business executives innately recognize that the best way to generate success is to support the team they have built around themselves by enabling them to systematically work through a set of clear, refined processes

To do that, begin by providing team members with quick access to clear, easy-to-follow processes. Unfortunately, business teams – like sports teams – sometimes tie themselves in knots trying to analyze and plan for every possible process variation. 

4 ways to tackle process complexity.

To take your business or game to the next level, you need to simplify your processes and make them easy for teams to use – even in high-pressure situations. 

Keep it simple.

Teams need process information that is engaging, user-friendly and useful. If your processes aren’t easy to use, change how and where you make them available. Consider the needs of each team when deciding the format to present process flows, making more detail available if and when needed. If it’s easy to understand and easy to use, teams will embrace process knowledge as a change enabler.

Make one source of process truth available.

Create a collaboration point that covers ‘how we do things here’. A critical step to expose duplication and complexity is by effectively capturing the critical process DNA and know-how of the organization.

Empower your process owners.

Teams need to feel that they own their processes, and have the right to simplify them in order to wipe out complexity. A healthy process improvement culture relies on empowered process owners who step up and take responsibility.  

Liberate process owners to innovate.

Process owners should have the freedom to try - and sometimes fail - in their efforts to improve and innovate. Like team coaches, leadership teams can effectively communicate and endorse this message, which will flow from your chief process owner, through your process champions, to process owners.

While process clarity is an important ingredient for successful execution every day, it becomes essential in times of stress.  Processes are truly tested when teams are under pressure - when they need to make decisions quickly or work through challenging transformational change.  Effective process management disciplines and simple process guidance can mean the difference between success and failure.

While these may seem like simple, common sense approaches, it’s surprising how many businesses – like the football teams that are sitting at home on Super Bowl Sunday – still complicate these concepts to the point where their performance is negatively impacted.

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