“It’s a complex world!” How often have you heard this in your business environment? Complexity is a word in every mouth at current conferences where you are told you, as an organisation, as an individual, must learn to deal with it. The question of how to deal with it is often more elusive.

Don’t expect me to give THE answer, I don’t believe that complexity can be reduced to a simple fix, I believe that the best answers to complexity come from the inner elaboration of those experiencing the situation.

For that, I have found that some approaches can be helpful and I’m rather excited by my discovery of the Cogntive Process Profile (CPP) developed by Cognadev. I enjoy complexity and have my own ways of understanding it, making sense of it and taking action. This is linked to my hardwiring, to the skills I have developed over time and to my intuition. I have been struggling for some time to describe my cognitive process in order to help others find their own way of managing the complexity they are facing. The CPP has provided me with that missing link.

Your CPP is a supervised online assessment that puts you in an unfamiliar situation. The assessment measures hundreds of data points as you complete the assessment tasks. It then provides a comprehensive report of how you process information, what level of complexity you are currently capable of processing, your full potential working environment, and best of all, it gives clues as to how to develop.

I have found the CPP to be extremely valuable to serve as the basis of a discussion in order to match people’s capacities with their work environment requirements. A practical example is provided below.

The psychological construct on which the CPP is based is very useful to build a picture of the level of complexity your organisation is facing, from there we can build the work environments requirements for various roles or functions. Individual CPP assessments can then be used to help find the place where people can contribute best by being in flow, making the most of their capabilities. The CPP can be the starting point of a personal growth plan.

I’m thrilled to now be fully accredited to administer and debrief this assessment. If you feel it would be valuable for your organisation and could be an integral part of managing your complexity, let’s talk!

Further reading: A practical example at company X

One of my clients is a medium sized factory that has been successfully ticking over for the last 20 years in a niche market. They have been making high margin products with low complexity and that are forgiving in terms of manufacturing: the process absorbs a high level of variability.

The workers have been used to a production manager thinking for them and solving all issues for them. This person has been anticipating production needs and reacting to problems for over 10 years. He has been dealing with all medium complexity issues (using Tactical Strategy skills) and the operators have been working at pure operational level, essentially doing what they were told and not needing to be involved in problem solving. This arrangement has worked fine for over a decade.

 Suddenly, the company introduced more complex products that are less forgiving in terms of manufacturing process and involve many more components. The manufacturing complexity has increased drastically. These products are destined to the automotive industry, so the company is now working for an industry whose requirements are much greater than those of their previous clients.

The company doesn’t understand the new requirements requested by their automotive clients and is hindered by their problem-solving skills that are not mature enough.

There has been a large turnover at multiple management levels (production and support functions) and the new recruits have been chosen for their capabilities to operate successfully at the company’s previous level of complexity (“what we are familiar with”) instead of the capability level needed to address their current (and future) level of complexity.

Levels of complexity. With permission and by courtesy of Cognadev

Furthermore, the shopfloor have lost their production superhero after he fell ill with burn out and chose to come back to other functions. We have identified that they now have production staff working at Pure Operational whilst their environment and production challenges would need Tactical Strategy level capabilities. The factory manufacturing process and quality functions would need to be working at Parallel Processing levels when they currently have Diagnostic Accumulation capacities.

As an action plan, we have identified the gap in capabilities and are working on developing key players in the management team so they can operate at the right level of complexity. This is a medium term development process and the ultimate aim is ensure that the production team has the right skills to meet product quality requirements, to solve production problems and contribute to delivering future product innovations. Identifying where each person operates on the spectrum compared to the requirements of their environment is the basis for an individual development plan.