Edward de Bono wrote much. His book, Simplicity, I think is very appropriate to apply to asset management and KPI decision making. The part that resonated with me is the difference between simple and simplistic.
In Infrastructure decision making a simple model is a great thing, a simplistic model is a destructive and dangerous thing. This is true in all fields, engineering, economic and social included. Simplistic by definition is overly simple. Unfortunately many of out decision makers have a simplistic understanding of both the English language and the role of infrastructure. You will hear many people calling for a more simplistic solution or approach. They mean “simple”, but one doubts whether the inability to differentiate between simplistic and simple translates into the making of sound decisions.
Regardless, satisfaction surveys, mandated bureaucratic KPIs, single-digit comparisons to like organisations and other such endeavors are simplistic management techniques. They have been over-simplified and are as a consequence of no value.
Simplicity before understanding is simplistic; simplicity after understanding is simple.
– Edward De Bono
Simplistic decisions are tolerated and often demanded by our populations. I believe this is because the general public has little understanding of the complexities of the modern world, and no desire to embrace that understanding. While the situations and decisions can be presented simply by our leaders, there is no political advantage in straying from binary arguments, right and wrong, black and white. The issue here is to help people understand that complex arguments about infrastructure can be presented simply, and be debated on their merits. With this understanding, the people can call for rational debate, not simplistic decision making. As professionals in our fields we can assist by presenting our work as simply as possible and resisting pressure to make our work simplistic.
Question for the day:
What techniques do you use, or know of, that help you to determine whether your reasoning is ‘simple’ or ‘simplistic’?