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  • Mike Shields

Got B2B Complexity? Try LEAN & Simple.

"You may hate gravity, but gravity doesn't care." Clayton Christensen

Part 4 of the 5 part series on Simplification of B2B Commerce

So, back to rock-climbing… sometimes during a climb that was turning out to be particularly hard/tricky one of us would say that we were having a ‘high gravity day’. Of course gravity hadn’t really changed… we just didn’t feel like we were in that zone where we were handling it as we’d hoped. In the climbing metaphor I spoke about the need for simplicity in the first post of this series. The other key factor was LEAN – many climbers assess their readiness in terms of ‘strength to weight ratio’, i.e. their balance of leanness to strength (extra weight being the enemy of overcoming gravity). So, in this 4th in my 5 part series on B2B Commerce Simplification, I’m introducing a simple model to evaluate complexity and respond to these two basic needs for Lean and Simple; and the impact they have on competitiveness:

  • LEAN – being clear and focused on identification and elimination of UNNECESSARY complexity.

  • SIMPLE – identifying and implementing the cleanest, lightest, and simplest practices, knowledge and technology to deal with the inherent and necessary complexities of performing in a world of complex business interaction.

The graphic below is a simple model to show the basic dimensions of B2B complexity and set the stage for mastery of simplification. My next series will break this model down into its four quadrants, with some further insights (and even advice) on each quadrant. Here’s a summary view:

B2B Complexity is inevitable, Simplification is the new competitive edge


  • TOP – High Impact Response ensures increased competitiveness and leadership – Attack through proven LEAN best practices to systematically remove all clutter and waste;

  • BOTTOM – Low Impact (non)Response lowers competitiveness and performance at increasing rate over time – Accept inevitability of waste and status quo.


  • TOP – High Impact Response positions for most competitive/dominant B2B position – MASTER B2B Simplification on three fronts: Process/Digital Content/Technology.

  • BOTTOM – Low impact Response leads to increasing dissatisfaction with B2B Commerce – Over/under simplifying results in growing gap in competitiveness as measured by customers, sales channels and operational performance.

  • CENTER ARROW – Competitiveness in B2B Commerce: The arrow in the center measures the relative effectiveness of each response.

This is where the analogy to gravity comes into play. So, for the world of B2B Commerce, I’ve made a variant of that Clay Christensen quote…“You may hate B2B Commerce, but B2B Commerce doesn’t care”. You see, there’s nothing we can do to stop it from happening… like gravity, simple direct and ‘easy to do business with’ commerce is NOT going away. The internet economy and all of the new technologies in our lives have increased expectations and lowered tolerance for the slow, cumbersome and error prone practices that many B2B suppliers have mastered and relied upon. More and more it is out of your hands as a supplier to dictate and decide how your products will find and reach customers. Today at an increasingly faster rate, customers decide… they expect (demand) clean, easy, intuitive self-service, backed up by product, sales, and technical support at their fingertips. This sounds alarming? Don’t stop yet… it’s not that impossible to master B2B Simplification. But like gravity, it’s a force to be reckoned with… so best to face that reality. So, if you’re having a HIGH-GRAVITY experience with B2B Commerce, stay tuned for the next post, the 5th in this 5-part series: Where to Start with B2B Simplification.

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