My first job out of college was as a project manager. I was hired because I have a natural ability to plan and manage complexity and yet the key point for me was to always seek out simplicity. The process was thus to be crystal clear about the desired outcome (this deliverable by such and such date) and then to set out the absolute minimum number of steps and resources to accomplish this, adding in some buffers where necessary.

Every additional step or person adds complexity and becomes a further potential point of failure (meaning delay) so is thus to be avoided. That is why overly complex projects or strategies that are reliant on everything going right tend to fail when confronted with messy realities.

Nevertheless, I know that simplicity is a preference. There are clearly times when it makes sense to add some friction to the process. Laws restricting the purchase of alcohol and tobacco are examples of additional friction.

Also, from having lived much of my adult life outside of my native country and having worked with clients from across the globe, I know first-hand that certain cultures place great value on how something is done as much as on the fact that it is done. An outcome can thus become somewhat tarnished if not done in the “right way”. It is thus important to be very clear upfront about what the outcome is: Is it THIS or THIS done in a particular way?

However, if this is your own project – why listen to other people’s stories about what the path to success looks like?

Questions in the Image:

  • How might I make it easier?
  • What is the outcome I desire?
  • What are the minimum steps that are required?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries (link to This book focuses on the concept of simplifying processes and achieving desired outcomes with minimum effort while being adaptable and innovative. It offers valuable insights into managing projects and strategies in an efficient manner.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – whenever I encounter simple processes that have been made more complex, these questions jump out: What benefit or value does this complexity offer? Who is benefitting? What cultural value does this additional complexity create? Why am I assuming that simple is better?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.