My linguistic skills fail me and I'd like some advice.

I have a project that currently works exactly as intended, short and sweet, yet a higher up has changed their mind and are asking for it to be done a certain way in order for it to match their concept of "simple". Ironically, this is making the whole thing far more complicated and less stable.

I feel like there's a phrase or idiom in English that expresses this well.

"Too many cooks spoil the broth" I don't feel is appropriate, since the fact more people are looking at it isn't the problem, this person's been involved from the start of it.

"Swatting flies with a sledgehammer" or similar Rube Goldberg type phrases don't seem like a good fit either, since I'm looking to draw more attention to the fact we've already got something that works, rather than attacking the new method.

Ideally I'd hope there's something not too rude, as I don't wish to intend this as a personal insult on this person.

  • The expression one size fits all is often quoted in contexts where it's obviously not true for some specific case. It could thus be used in your specific context, where metaphorically speaking one size = one definition of "a simple method". It's not simpler for that specific case, so the preferred method is a "bad fit" for solving that particular problem. When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Mar 22, 2016 at 17:29
  • 6
    "I'm looking to draw more attention to the fact we've already got something that works, rather than attacking the new method." -- In the US, I'd use "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"..
    – bradimus
    Mar 22, 2016 at 17:34
  • @FumbleFingers don't forget the ironic phrase "one size fits none"
    – Patrick M
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:07
  • The higher up is changing the implementation in a way that is indistinguishable from the current way to the end user? (not counting the possible stability side-effects)
    – ColleenV
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:08

3 Answers 3


In software engineering, we sometimes use the term overengineered to describe a solution which has been unnecessarily complicated in the service of dubious priorities, or whose feature set has swelled beyond what is actually required.

The motivation for such solutions is typically a well-intentioned, but misguided, desire to include functionality which may someday be needed/desired, but which has little to no present bearing on the usefulness of the system.

As a consequence of the extraneous components introduced, he resulting system tends to be more difficult to maintain and test, and often makes less efficient use of available resources.

  • Tricky, I like the word and it is the best fit I can think of, but in the following sentence, is there the implication that he was trying to simplify (as stated in OP) the product? "He overengineered the product to uselessness."
    – BenL
    Mar 22, 2016 at 23:05

I'm not sure how this will fit in.

What you described is a case of simplicating something.

Simplicate (verb)

To make a system more complex so that the use of the system is easier or simpler.

"Our audience is getting younger and less educated, so despite the additional fabrication costs, we must simplicate the new model of this machine to improve ease of use."

Usage notes

Used in design of solutions to complex problems or situations.

1) A GUI is easier to use than a CLI, but requires more software to implement.

2) Replace a keyboard with a microphone and speech recognition software.

3) Gucci and Blahnik clothing looks clean and simple, and addresses complex requirements for comfort, wear, and appearance, but requires much more care in the choice of colors, material & structural technology, and craft. (This might also illustrate sophisticated.)

This is a rather new term and mostly used within computing

  • 1
    An interesting neologism, though I'm not sure how many people would call it a "real" word. It's been coined several times for slightly different senses - for example, the pre-WW2 aircraft designer's maxim Simplicate and add lightness is quite different to the computer sense make user interface simpler by adding "hidden" complexity in your Wiktionary link. But I don't think any of them reflect OP's sense of inappropriately / self-defeatingly attempt to impose standardized concepts of simplicity. Mar 22, 2016 at 19:20
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    @FumbleFingers Thank you for sharing that. I wasn't so sure about my answer and I've mentioned it at the top.
    – NVZ
    Mar 22, 2016 at 19:57

You could say that they "opened Pandora's box" or a "can of worms" by attempting to go beyond the original scope. I'm not sure if that would be interpreted as being rude or insubordinate, though.

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