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Complex or simply difficult?

Sarah Willcox

Image of a pigoen illustrating the Fairisle article Complex or simply difficult

“They’ve moved me to a new office and I don’t like it at all. Different pigeons come to the window.”

Excellent Women, Barbara Pym

Two of the most important goals of working with projects are: getting clear on the key objectives so we can start quickly, and maintaining our focus on the task at hand so we can keep moving.

The problem is that it’s not long, given how teams and organisations work, before we run into complexity. That slows progress. Occasionally we’ll find a problem that seems to call for a solution so complex that it’s almost impossible to implement.

Complex or simply difficult?

So much that is related to change can be difficult and/or painful for the people involved. When it is, I wonder if we try to reduce the discomfort by coming up with solutions that in fact add complexity to the situation without addressing the real problem. Or maybe creating complexity helps us avoid tackling difficult situations. Either way it doesn’t help because it slows things down, adds more complications and takes up resources that could be better used elsewhere.

What problem are you trying to solve?

When we first explore what problem we’re trying to solve, what would happen if we tried to discriminate between that the complex or simply difficult issues:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Is this problem actually complex?
  • Or is it simple and very difficult?
  • What kind of difficult?
  • What can be done to ease the difficult?

How about asking these questions for the main problem you’re currently facing?

And William? Is his problem complex or difficult? What would you advise? Get in touch and share your thoughts.