What's Driving You Crazy
Your organizational subtraction efforts are uncoordinated, disorganized, and unfocused, making them ineffectual as well.
A subtraction movement is an enduring multi-pronged effort that involves many, or all, people in an organization. These movements ensure the integration of subtraction into the values and culture of an organization.
Case study featuring Movement
The Center for Simplification Excellence at AstraZeneca
Led by executive Pushkala Subramanian, who formed the company’s Center for Simplification Excellence in 2015, One of the first goals that her team set was the “million-hour challenge.” The idea was to free up time to complete more clinical trials and improve the lives of patients by giving back 30 minutes a week to each AstraZeneca employee. By 2016, the company’s 60,000 employees had, by their calculation, unlocked that million hours. By the end of 2017, they had saved more than two million hours.They did it by developing and spreading a shared mindset. Subramanian and her team knew that the centralized command and control approach that Gerstner and Jobs took would backfire in this decentralized company. Rather than telling people at AstraZeneca what to do, her team took “a player-coach type of approach.” They emphasized “simplification shouldn’t add complexity” and, while her team did lead key company-wide simplification efforts, her team believed that the movement’s success would hinge more on the cumulative impact of hundreds of local changes. As she put it, to create a simplification movement, “let us not solve world hunger; let us start eating the elephant in small chunks.” In many parts of the company, for example, it took days before a new employee was given a laptop, and even longer for them to get and learn the software they needed to do their work. This not only reduced newcomers’ productivity, it planted early seeds of doubt and cynicism. A company-wide program was launched to ensure that, on their first day, every AstraZeneca employee in every country had a fully functioning laptop and access to instant technical support. Another company-wide effort saved thousands of hours: The default meeting time in their Outlook calendaring software was changed from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.But Subramanian’s team placed greater emphasis on empowering people to make local changes in individual businesses and functions, and in how each team and person worked. They encouraged every employee to identify what frustrates them and their customers, and provided classes, handbooks, websites, workshops, and coaches to help them generate and implement repairs. Hundreds of big and little changes were made throughout the company. A business in the U.S. saved 150 hours a year by simplifying how they visualized oncology data. The IT team in Mexico cut paperwork in half, saving 690 hours a year. Meeting-free days were introduced in Taiwan and Thailand. The Price Simplification Task Force in Singapore reduced complexity and confusion for both employees and customers. Every AstraZeneca employee in Japan simplified one thing they had control over, saving 50,000 hours for the year. These changes had a big cumulative effect. On May 17th, 2017 the company held World Simplification Day to celebrate reaching their goal of saving 2 million hours a year and share and spread time-saving practices throughout the company. As 2017 drew to a close, Subramanian and AstraZeneca’s senior executives made another subtraction decision: To disband the Center for Simplification Excellence. From the start, Subramanian’s goal had always been to work herself out of a job. Her team members were also burned-out from their intensive two-year effort and ready to take a break and then move onto other challenges. Subramanian did worry that the movement would lose momentum in the company. But she believed that it was time for her tired team to move onto new challenges. And that it was up to the firm’s senior leaders and Individual businesses, teams, and employees carry the simplification mindset and work forward.
How to use Movement
Movements require long term commitment and dedication to subtraction from every level of employee in an organization. Grass roots efforts as well as top down driven initiatives should be implemented as part of these movements in order to bring the biggest magnitude of change. Specific resources should be allocated to furthering these movements as well as company wide rituals or processes which ensure their integration into the company culture.