SIMPLe Aspects

The six (6) aspects are used to facilitate to collect insights sense-making discussions of complex situations. 

Overview the SIMPLe framework

They were chosen based on experience in categorising main root causes in failing agile transformations. The framework does not give a guarantee that you will find the right steps or take the right decisions. As a matter of fact it can not. Nevertheless, the right steps (denoted as experiments) in the picture below should be so small or safe in the sense that the cost of failure is kept low.

When gathering insights for improving business agility SIMPLe suggests to check iteratively the following aspects: Sped, Inclusion, Modification, Performance, Leadership and small Experiments


In the long run companies that will not succeed to increase the speed of delivery and adaptation to change, will fail.
Typical questions for exploration:

What stops us from implementing good solutions fast? How can we identify faster new solutions and get feedback? How can we adapt our strategy fast while being consistent to long term goals?

The system is more than its parts. We can only find good potential solution through including a large amount of people for collaboration in large scale. 
Typical questions:

Are we including enough people in the decision making process? Are we co-creating, or just informing? Who do we need to involve? How can we include more people and gain more insights? How can we increase collaboration? How can we increase diversity?

Structural change is important to create the right environment which enhances change. 
Typical questions:

Where and how can we reduce coordination overhead and reporting? What is the environment that we need in order to learn better?

Acting without some degree of measuring can lead to nowhere. 
Typical questions:

Do we have the right measurements at a given point of time installed to measure our progress? Are we measuring the wrong things? How is our budgeting and financial controlling mechanism setup and perceived? 

Everyone should be allowed to lead. Empowerment to increase autonomy leads to motivation and increases the probability for innovation. 
Typical questions:

Are people an important asset for the company? Is there psychological safety? How can we improve it? Can anyone lead at a given situation?

Think big, fail small, learn fast. Instead of trying to predict the unpredictable validate decisions with small experiments. 
Typical questions:

What is the next small step we can validate if we are on the right track?

Why these Aspects?

Speed as the ultimate goal

Based on experience from a large amount of workshops and group discussions when it comes to business agility there is the need to talk about speed in general. 

In a lot of cases solutioning is concentrated mainly on obvious resolutions that will apparently increase the speed (e.g. of delivery). The problems are though much more interconnected and a systemic view is necessary to make sense of a given state of a business transformation. Therefore we need to look at more perspectives.

Inclusion: More perspectives and better decision collectively

Solutions to complex problems are iteratively discovered through collaboration and experimenting. It is crucial to try to create an inclusion instead of a top-down communication culture. Collaboration is focused usually at “team-level” and there is hardly any approach for including a large amount of people across one organisation for decision making.

Modify: Culture follows Structure

The concept that changes of the mindset (beliefs, values) and not only in the way we do things (behaviour) are necessary for sustainable change is widely accepted. Nevertheless in a business context change of beliefs and values is a very long process of several years. Knowledge workers already have the right beliefs and values to understand the advantages of continuous learning, collaboration, system thinking and concepts such as servant leadership. The problem mainly that hinders culture change is that structures remain the same as also the dynamics the resulting politics, competing interests between matrix and line organisations and resulting conflicts.

Larman’s Law: Organizations are implicitly optimized to avoid changing the status quo middle- and first-level manager and “specialist” positions & power structures.

In order to have significant improvement in your transformation you need to also gradually and steady work on modification of structures. Structures such as example hierarchy which is counter productive to a fast information flow should be reduce.

Performance measures to evaluate progress

This dimension is important because in order to be able to validate the small steps towards improvement you also need to be able to measure and also question the interpretation of your measurements.

Leadership as a social activity

Looking at the human history there has been continuously a movement to more freedom and this is very natural, because we as humans are born as autonomous individuals. The misconception that control is better to make people take responsibility was created because the focus was on productivity for routine tasks not on people. In a world where knowledge is the major asset and where workers own the knowledge, engagement is more important than compliance to management rules and processes. Enabling people to lead in certain situations accountable by delegating authority (not just delegating tasks) will lead to high performance.

Experiment: Define work as a learning activity and not as execution

If you try to solve a problem with the same mindset that created it you will fail. In this sense if you try to run business transformations as projects it will most probably also fail. Due to the complex nature of such improvement processes small experiments.


Do not interpret SIMPLe aspects as work-streams

The main idea behind SIMPLe is to utilise the knowledge of a lot of people through collaboration to identify solutions fast and experiment fast.

The interpretation of the SIMPle aspects in to work-streams of a transformation project can be a big mistake.

  • SIMPle uses the “dynamic of the moment” in a 2 day (max) workshop to iterate. In these two days people create the navigation map and focus on the big picture at the same time and take decisions collectively.
  • Splitting participants in groups to work out the different aspects has to be done with great care e.g. by using the right format.
  • Splitting the aspects into work groups within the company and consolidate results after some period does not have the same dynamics and leads usually to over analysis of the situation. Sometimes this leads to very slow large solutions and does not take advantage of irrational factors such as intuition.