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“Complexity kills.”

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In his OpinionJournal column this morning, Daniel Henninger wrote:

The second, more important story, to anyone whose income depends on knowing where the world will be a decade hence, was the email traffic between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his top techie, Ray Ozzie. “It’s clear that if we fail to do so,” wrote Mr. Ozzie–that is, fail to figure out the ultimate meaning of the Internet–“our business as we know it is at risk. We must respond quickly and decisively.”

He was referring to this memo by Microsoft big thinker Ray Ozzie

There’s a lot in this memo, even for the non-techie, but here are the two graphs that struck me as applicable far beyond the world of Microsoft, and especially in the world of the Global War on Terror:

That said, even when we’ve been solidly in pursuit of a common vision, our end-to-end execution of key scenarios has often been uneven ‘” in large part because of the complexity of doing such substantial undertakings. In any large project, the sheer number of moving parts sometimes naturally causes compartmentalization of decisions and execution. Some groups might lose sight of how their piece fits in, or worse, might develop features without a clear understanding of how they’ll be used. In some cases by the time the vision is delivered, the pieces might not quite fit into the originally-envisioned coherent whole. We cannot allow the seams in our organization, or our methods of making decisions, show through in our products, or result in the failure to deliver on key end-to-end experiences.

Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges, and it causes end-user and administrator frustration. Moving forward, within all parts of the organization, each of us should ask ‘What’s different?’

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