KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) - A Design Principle for HR?


The phrase; “keep it simple, stupid” is thought to have been coined by the late Kelly Johnson, who was the lead engineer at Lockheed. Kelly explained the idea to others with a simple story. He told the designers at Lockheed that whatever they made had to be something that could be repaired by a man in a field with some basic mechanic’s training and simple tools. The theatre of war (for which Lockheed’s products were designed) would not allow for more than that. If their products weren’t simple and easy to understand – they would quickly become obsolete in combat conditions and thus worthless.

Today the KISS principle is celebrated in many professions (including software engineering) and is often brought to bear by managers in many professions as well as by trainers and educators.

In the sphere of Human Resources, we see so many overly complex solutions to the challenges which organisations face. Career Insight were once engaged by a client, for instance, who used an exit surveying system from another supplier, but it was felt to be too complicated and as a result, no one used it… the previous reports didn’t make sense, quickly enough, to a wide enough audience.

The easier something is to understand and use – the more likely it is to be adopted and engaged with. Career Insight gave that client a ranked list of the reasons why people were leaving their organisation, it gave them easy to digest lists of what employees felt they should do about those problems and it gave easy access to free text comments which brought the mood of their leavers to life. For this client, this was just what they needed, they look at their results often and regularly take action to improve. For them, Career Insight keeps it simple, and with up to date feedback at their disposal, no-one should appear stupid.