Super7 Operations - The Next Step for Lean in Financial Services

Parallels between Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations

There are several parallels between Yves Morieux’s Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations – the new way of applying Lean in financial services.

Last year, I had the privilege to attend a seminar on Smart Simplicity by BCG Fellow Yves Morieux.  He explained that complexity and lack of cooperation is the common root cause to low productivity and low employee morale. He passionately explained how this works and how Smart Simplicity is the answer.  Now, you can hear his theories for yourself, in his – highly recommended – TED talk, available on youtube (link – be warned, you may be buying a second TV after watching it).  After hearing his story, I realized that there are parallels between Smart Simplicity fit in with Super7 Operations.

Below, I give you my interpretation of Smart Simplicity. Please refer to the works of Yves Morieux for the original (Harvard Business Review, BCG, TED):

Traditional organizational design, with its focus on the hard (structure, systems, etc.) and the soft (human relations, positive emotions, etc.) is obsolete. Instead, you should use the Six Smart Rules of Smart Simplicity. First rule is that you should understand what people really do, where they spend their time on. The second rule is that you should reinforce integrator or in other words make managers true integrators by removing as much layers of management as possible.  The third rule states that you should empower as many people in your organization, thus increasing the total amount of power within your organization. The fourth rule tells us to create feedback loops that show people the effect of their behavior. The fifth rule is that we should increase reciprocity by removing buffers of self-sufficiency. Get rid of all the second TV’s in your organization. The last rule tells us to reward those who cooperate and blame those who don’t.

As said, there are several parallels between Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations:

  1. The first parallel is cooperation. In Smart Simplicity and in Super7 Operations, cooperation is the key to increasing productivity and employee morale. Where Super7 Operations focuses on cooperation between operational employees, Smart Simplicity advocates cooperation between functions and departments.
  2. Second parallel is reduction of management layers. Super7 teams are highly autonomous, which means that less management is needed. In recent implementations of Super7 Operations, significant reduction of management was realized. And the second rule of Smart Simplicity is to reinforce integrators – Give managers (these are the integrators) discretionary power and interest to make others cooperate. And, according to Morieux in his TED-talk, this often means reducing management layers.
  3. The third parallel is delegation and empowerment. Super7 teams get as much power as needed to help their customers. Handovers are eliminated, because the Super7 team can do everything within the team.
  4. The fourth parallel is rewarding cooperation. Super7 teams are steered on output, but individuals are rewarded for cooperation.

In summary, Super7 Operations and Smart Simplicity share several principles. Where Super7 Operations applies these bottom-up, starting on the shop floor of Operations Departments in Financial Services, Smart Simplicity is gives us a more holistic, strategic redesign approach. But the two don’t bite each other. Sometimes, it’s better to start small, to start bottom up and then gradually extend the same principles to the whole organization. In these cases, Super7 Operations may be easier to start with. And in other cases, Smart Simplicity is needed to redesign change entire value chains and to improve cooperation on interdepartmental level.   

Menno R. van Dijk.