If you want, you can make the simplest task the most complicated waste of time imaginable with almost a guaranteed outcome of non-completion. Now why on earth would we choose to do this? Well, there are a few reasons we tend to do this, and hopefully by identifying...

If you want, you can make the simplest task the most complicated waste of time imaginable with almost a guaranteed outcome of non-completion. Now why on earth would we choose to do this? Well, there are a few reasons we tend to do this, and hopefully by identifying them early, you can avoid them and keep it simple. Remember, doing less things perfectly is better than doing more things in a half-assed manner.

"If you are never really done with it, you can never be held accountable for things that don’t work."

  1. By over-complicating the task, you avoid having to "hand it off", where it now becomes something out of your control. (Control freaks - this one was for you.)
  2. By continuing to noodle with a task or adding complexity, you can avoid having to ever find out if you did it right or not. This is a typical "fear of failure" behavior.
  3. You think if it's not complicated, it has less value, therefore you will be seen as less impressive or successful. We all know people like this.
  4. You presume to know what the client or manager will say in response to your completed task (be it a statement of work, a design change, or an initial presentation), so you start trying to answer all the hypothetical responses before you ever get the dialog started. This is often a symptom of control freaks or insecurity.
  5. You over-complicate because you can't back your mind out of where you are in the task. You can no longer see it from a big picture perspective (or even a different perspective) so you get stuck trying to find solutions which all require a high level of complexity due to the fact that you are so immersed in the task or process. The only way to avoid this is to ensure you are getting team feedback and input at critical stages of your process.
  6. You don't want to say goodbye. Once you finish something, it's truly up for critique, criticism and additional input. If you are never really done with it, you can never really be held accountable for things that don't work, and you convince yourself that even though you can't complete it, one day it will prove valuable to something else. This is the hoarder behavior.

So, do any of these behaviors describe you? Have you found ways to avoid over-complication? How do you help others follow the path of least resistance? I'm sure I missed some, so tell us - how else do we manage to over-complicate what could be simple? And why?

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published July 26th 2010