Simplification

Some days ago I had a discussion at night with my wife who just returned from a two day conference about legal bank matters which reminded me that “Simplification” of course is not a subject only in my profession where I deal a lot with project management, software development, product design and IT architectures, it is a topic to be extended to every other discipline and our own life. And I think some things are much more unnecessarily complicated than IT solutions: take laws for instance.

My wife started our discussion with mentioning that during some times during that conference her thoughts started wandering away and she started asking herself: “What the hell I am actually doing here at this conference ?”
Laws are getting so complicated that usually hundreds of books are written how to interpret and how to deal with them. My wife’s job together with hundreds of other experts in German banks is to worry about procedures and formalism how to implement those legal regulations into banking business processes. Whenever she has to do this she wonders why things have to be too complicated. And she certainly gets the feeling that by spending all that time to deal with that complexity she does not really contribute to a value add in our society. It just seems to be so senseless.
She started to explain details about those regulations and procedures but I gave up after a while to understand; this was not the right stuff to discuss in the evening after a long working day.

Take tax regulations as an example. How many are there, how many exceptions are there ? How many different taxes do we have and how much options you have at the end of the year to get a few dollars back ? How much time you spend on this to understand the laws and prepare your tax declaration ?

If I would write tax laws they would consist of two sentences may be – and thousands of tax experts and lawyers would become unemployed right away. The law would read probably like this: “Every one pays xx % of his income as income tax. Every one pays yy % of what he buys as sales tax.” End of law, that’s it. No extra taxes to invent if more money is needed, no regulations for anyone to have some benefits. The xx and yy would have to be determined based on what is needed and the public is capable to pay – and might have to be re-negotiated every year.

Do I really think that would work ? Can I be so idealistic ? Nop, of course. 10 minutes after having published this new revolutionary tax law the first group of people would show up asking for exceptions, followed by one group after the other.

Our income is only that low, we need to pay less !”
There should be higher sales tax on fuel to protect our environment !”
In our profession we have to spend so much money on …., thus we need a refund.

You get the point. Thousands of “requirements” would very soon create a new tax monster law with hundred of paragraphs and thousands of exceptions trying to please everyone but bottom line implement what most of the people don’t like: taxes.

When you buy a new software, do you really read all the text in the license agreement ? And if you are one of the very few people who would do that: do you understand what you read ?
Lawyers have their own language. When I start reading a text a lawyer has written I usually give up after the first sentence. It is not something a regular human being can understand.
It is damned complex, but this subject matter experts usually don’t do anything to  reduce complexity a little bit by at least explaining well the content of such an agreement or law.

Isn’t that the same said about IT geeks ? Some of them  might be able to deal with the complexity they create, but even fewer are able to explain this in a language an average person would understand.

Explaining well is the path to understanding. And understanding is the path to reduce complexity and to simplify.

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