Pablo Picasso’s 1946 “The Bull” is widely regarded as a masterpiece. It is a series of eleven lithographs that start with a realistic sketch of a bull. Initially, it becomes more muscular and lifelike. However, the trend then reverses. Step by step, Picasso removes everything which does not represent the bull’s essence. Each subsequent print finds a simpler sketch until the eleventh lithograph is a line drawing of the bull. Remarkably, the final bull retains its spirit as much as the original design.
This series is famous because it is a visual representation of the evolution toward simplicity. The concept is not only applicable to art. The bull’s progression can also serve as an analogy for designing business organizations and processes. Through continuous redesign, your organization has the potential to progress into a simpler, more streamlined configuration.
How Picasso’s Progression Can Mirror your Process Design
One definition of simple, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is as follows:
Simple: constituting a basic element: fundamental
The processes which make up the organization should only include tasks that contribute to the company’s ultimate goals of quality, well-being, and profit. Likewise, those same processes should also remove any tasks which are redundant, wasteful, or simply not “fundamental.”
In fact, the deliberate design of an organization follows Picasso’s steps. The growth of an organization adds processes and staff at a rapid pace. The goal at that point is to survive and meet objectives. Following the initial growth, however, the processes created to overcome the need for growth will likely be inefficient.
At this point, there are two available paths:
1) Keep going in the hope that things will start to sort themselves.
2) Alternatively, question the current structure and modify/create simple and elegant processes without unneeded, superfluous elements.
Simplifying an organization to its basic structure can be started at any time, but the sooner the process begins, the easier it is. The goal is to boil all the main processes down to their essence. Part of this includes the removal of duplicated tasks and unnecessary processes. It also requires analyzing the way everything is currently done to ensure the simplicity of your systems and processes.
Some of the main culprits you will find are:
Double entry of the same information
Too many layers of bureaucracy
Going back and forth for a single task
Two people that are responsible for the same activity
(For more information on process design, read How to Use Diagrams to Implement Processes in Your Business and How to Organize Your Business by Types of Processes).
Once the inefficiencies are identified, you can focus on streamlining and improving the firm’s systems.
Try it Out
The quest to achieve the essence of the bull is never-ending. Business is messy; new tasks appear all the time. Achieving simplicity requires constant questioning and deliberate, recurrent inquiries into the actual state of the company’s systems.
It is worth the investment, however. The result will be a streamlined, flexible organization with strength and resilience.
This post was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated and recirculated for 2022.