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Yves Morieux is a senior partner and managing director in BCG’s Washington DC office. He is an expert in corporate transformation and leads the firm’s development of approaches to help[…]

Business today is dizzyingly complex, says Boston Consulting Group Senior Partner and Managing Director Yves Morieux. Employees have lost their professional moorings, and companies are making the problem worse.

The answer: simplification. Workers need clear objectives and an organizational sense of what they are doing and why.

Yves Morieux: Companies have become more and more complicated. People lose purpose; they lose meaning; they lose direction. They have to do, undo, redo. There is more and more work, more and more meetings, more and more reporting needs, more and more emails and less and less is achieved. So people have to work harder and harder, longer and longer, creating less and less value. And this makes a difference in the productivity and, of course, in satisfaction at work. 

With my teams we started to study what was happening, why people, for example, when you were interviewing them to understand their job, because consulting is about understanding what people do. Some of them started to cry, to cry. So this was not a firing interview. It was not a recruiting interview where you tell people, “Sorry, you will not make it.” It was just asking people to tell you about their work. What do you find the most interesting, the most difficult? With whom do you need to interact to accomplish your task? How you see your future and in the middle some people started to cry. So this is very surprising. This used not to happen 10 years ago.

If you go back to Frederick Taylor. Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management, which is the underpinning approach to the hard toolbox, used to say employees should receive every day clear instructions and they should execute these instructions whether they are right or wrong. So when you say that you clearly say that you don’t want people to use their intelligence, their judgment. Execute whether the instruction is right or wrong. Henry Ford used to say, “All I want is a good pair of hands. The problem is that I need to take the person attached to the hands.” Clearly you didn’t need people’s intelligence, initiative, and judgment because the business was much simpler, less complex. Today the business has become much more complex so we need to better leverage human intelligence, human judgment. And this is not a matter of boxes, of score cards, of processes. It is how you make the parts work together so that people multiply because they cooperate, multiply their intelligence, their energy, making the whole worth more than the sum of the parts.