Seth Godin is good at questions. One of his <honestly stolen here> best is “what is it for?” In many ways, we don’t nearly ask this question enough.
I believe we create a lot of complexity by not doing that. The bridge in the picture is a Bailey bridge. It was probably put up some 65 years ago to temporarily help a bunch of people (soldiers) cross a stream. It still does just that today, even if it isn’t necessary anymore. It works because it is requisite.
What often happens in large corporations is the opposite. We bump into a stream we need to cross. Instead of asking: “where can we get a dingy?” (or shall we build bridge?), the tendency is to specify a boat in a blueprint. Then a committee is formed to deal with the task. It quickly becomes a coaster and somewhere in the construction process, morphs into a super tanker. This is subsequently placed midstream, as a result of which, we still have not crossed the stream 12 months later and we need to navigate around this massive object to figure out a way to cross that stream, after all.
Next time ask “What’s our equivalent of a Bailey bridge for solving this problem?” or:
What is it for?
There’s a nice case on how this plays out from Jason Fried I stumbled upon here.
The photo is by @kbrun