How to Have Simple and Effective Processes

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Reading time: 1 min.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

–Albert Einstein

Our companies thrive when we have the simplest possible systems, processes, and policies. Anything too simple would be incomplete and cause confusion and waste. Anything too cumbersome will slow us down.

How, then, would we put Einstein’s advice into practice? It’s simple, of course! For any system, process, or policy,

  • Work back from the desired results. Start at the end and ask, “What do we need to have this outcome?” Then repeat the question until we get to the beginning. Whatever we build will be as simple as possible. Desired results describe what we want to happen for how much investment of time, energy, and money.
  • Add safeguards to address only those potential errors with unacceptably high expected costs (probability of it occurring times cost in relationship currency, dollars, and time).
  • Agree to revisit/redesign the systems, process, or policy whenever the desired results (outcomes and/or investment needed to get those outcomes) start slipping.

Simple.

 

In your corner,

Mike

Today’s photo credit: photosteve101 Pencil’s nib / pencil close up / macro / with with cross-section paper via photopin (license)

Hafta Versus Gonna

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

There’s a fundamental flaw that makes all time (or task) management awful. When we think about time management, we make the unwitting assumption that we “hafta” do, dump, delegate, or do later all the tasks that come our way. “I hafta answer that email. I gotta give Margie that feedback. I need to lose 5 pounds. I hafta reduce my environmental footprint.” Since there is no way we can ever get to all the things, the tasks just pile up. And we spend energy feeling bad about or trying to ignore it all.

Here’s a better way to think of it: let’s consider all the tasks that come to us as things we might do. From this perspective, we can happily let things pile up. “I might answer that email. I could complete the TPS report. I might book a ride in a helicopter. I could launch a line of parakeet clothing.”

Next, let’s get clear on what we really want to accomplish. We can do this by answering the question, “How will I know I’ve done a good job here?”

Then we step into a productive flow by asking ourselves, “What feels best? From all the things in the pile, what am I gonna do? What do I choose to do now?”

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Flow much better, ya?

 

Today’s photo credit: davdenic Colors via photopin (license)

We Needn’t

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

Assuming we know the outcomes we want to see, there are two ways we can approach any given situation. We can worry about how it will happen. Or we can watch with excited expectation as it unfolds.

Whichever we choose will determine how effective our planning and actions will be.

We take the heavy, former approach when we think we can and should control things. We take the lighter, latter approach when we realize we can’t and needn’t control anything.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Or, rather, we can’t and needn’t control anything besides our own thoughts and reactions.

 

Today’s photo credit: doranyiro Kuma waiting for a loving home (at the NHSPCA shelter) via photopin (license)

So, You Say You Want Better Results

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 2 min.

Okay. Maybe we are convinced that jumping into action to get desired results is problematic. Perhaps there is something useful in raising our buzz–that is, to feeling good–then acting as inspired to generate better results. But why does raising our buzz seem so difficult?

Mostly, it’s because we are fighting age-old, inherited habits. We are so used to (1) reacting to outside influences and (2) thinking that we have to figure things out and get into action to handle those outside influences. Any attempt we make to raise our buzz (that is, feeling good despite the outside influences) presses against those two habits. It is hard to do. But here’s the thing: saying it’s hard makes it harder. (See?)

So we need a way to gently, lightly move ourselves away from reacting to outside influences and toward an inner-generated, high-buzz perspective.

What works is starting with small, daily practice. Being playful about it also helps. It is especially useful to do this practice as we are going to bed and as we wake up. It takes just a few minutes each time. Within a few days, we will notice a difference. And inside a month, whoa!

Keep going.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Arya Ziai September 13, 2013 at 09:58PM via photopin (license)

It’s Very Hard Work

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

We talk about approaching our piles of tasks with ease. We note how jumping into action when feeling tense, angry, or otherwise bad about stuff is counterproductive. And we at least suspect that taking the time to first feel good then act is a smart way to go.

Yet many people complain that we advocate being lazy, not getting stuff done, or ignoring what’s important. They insist that success comes primarily from hard work.

And there, they are right.

It takes lots of hard work–focus, concentration, discernment, and organization–to replace our habit of jumping into action with a habit of doing whatever it takes to first feel good, then act as inspired. When we do, though, wow!

Gotta do the right hard work.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Amanda Slater from Coventry, England (Suffolk Horses Ploughing) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

re: Never Mind the Pile

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
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A large pile of tasks can make us feel anxious, annoyed, or apoplectic. We think that these feelings are a reaction to the pile–a call to buckle down, push harder, and make stuff happen.

Nope.

That feeling is the wiser part of us sending us a memo: “Never mind the pile. You’re fine. You’re just thinking about it the wrong way. There’s an easier, more fulfilling way. That pile isn’t a threat. Nor are the stories you make up about what would happen if you don’t do them correctly, on time, or to someone else’s satisfaction. What you fear is baseless. Action taken when buzzing low is always counterproductive. Be easy about it all. Things always work out. You will never get through the pile; you’re always adding more. Think of it as a “could do” pile, not a “to do” pile. Breathe. Get perspective. Enjoy the process. You’ve done this before. You’ve got this now. Yes. Feel good, raise your buzz, then act from the ensuing inspiration. Repeat. And enjoy the results.”

Better?

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: The stronger the feeling, the more imperative the memo.

Today’s photo credit: Allysse Riordan Piling up via photopin (license)

The One Thing We Forget About Getting Stuff Done

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 2 min.

We spend much of our energy on getting everything done either by ourselves or through others. But there never seems to be enough time. So we stress and steam and push and plead to get everyone into action and producing.

But we regularly leave out one thing that would simplify things and speed the results we seek: trust.

When we trust that everything works out for us, that others are fundamentally good, and that we can handle anything that comes up, we pave the way. People gain confidence, we are not bogged down in stress, and results come shockingly quickly and well.

Most of us have seen how this trust works. But in the tension of the day and against the backdrop of the what the world generally believes, we forget. The sooner we remember that the key is, “believing is seeing”–not the other way around–the easier it will be.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: This version of trust means that we feel good about the desired results–as if they have already occurred–before they actually show up. If we feel bad, we aren’t trusting and will fall back into the slower, more stressful way: doing stuff to make things happen.

PPS: What does it look like to feel good before the results show up? It will be different for each person. To get started, try doing a ladder exercise with “how it is now” at the bottom of the ladder and the desired results at the top. Once you get to the feeling at the top, it will be very easy to see how to trust, feel good, and jump into inspired action.

PPPS: And it will become easy for others to pick up on your excitement and get inspired themselves.

PPPPS: Trust does not supplant action. As we trust, we will see the next best thing to do: make that call, write that note, work that spreadsheet. But we won’t be acting to feel better and cause a result. That’s so important.

 

Today’s photo credit: Ulf Bodin Uppsala, March 21, 2015 via photopin (license)

Why We Can’t Mandate Best Practices 

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading
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Sure, when we learn a helpful tool or idea, we want to share it. But we as leaders can’t mandate it. Forcing others to use a tool (a task organization method, say, or a way of remaining calm under fire) that we find personally helpful causes them to focus on pleasing us instead of learning and leveraging.

We can, however, model and coach. Implementing the tool or idea for ourselves will inspire people to investigate and adopt these new ways. When they come to ask us about it, we can coach them through.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: The exceptions here are tools that everyone must use for smooth day-to-day operations. For example, having everyone tracking work with clients in a CRM is not, usually, optional. Modeling and coaching are great ways to help people adopt these tools and approaches that we all need to use.

Selecting What NOT To Get Done

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It’s not about getting it all done. We can’t even get most of it done. There’s just too much we could do and more is always coming.

The trick is to get good at selecting only the best things to get done. And to actively NOT do the rest.

To do this, we first give ourselves and our teams permission not to get everything done. Otherwise, the stress and guilt will derail us. Next we set aside time daily and weekly to choose those best things to get done. Otherwise, we’ll be too reactive. Then we dedicate time monthly and quarterly for reflection and planning. Otherwise, our strategy will get stale, we’ll clash with each other over what we should be doing, and the reactive fire-fighting will creep back in.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: What’s the most important thing to get done today? (See, you knew the answer right away.)

 

Today’s photo credit: Tim Pierce accomplished (344/365) via photopin (license)

The Siren Songs That Tempt Every Leader

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Strategy
Reading time: 1 min.

Trying to figure it all out and get it all done are the siren songs of leadership. They snare us every time.

We can avoid the rocks of micromanagement and the shoals of overwrought strategy by leading instead of deciding or doing. We have more than enough to do as captain of the ship. Our work is getting clear on desired outcomes, setting up rules of engagement so that everyone can win, believing (really, really) we will succeed, tracking and tacking, and getting out of the way so that others can execute.

Let them do the figuring out and executing.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: One sign that you are headed for the rocks: the sense that it’d just be faster if you did the work instead of them. Steer away! Pure siren song, that.

 

Today’s photo credit Lorenzo Costa – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link