I’ve worked hard to distill the essential elements of the Method into just one essay. Here it is.
System Improvement is Your Solution
In books on the subject of achieving business/life success there are two classic approaches:
- Do certain physical things – follow the recommended tips – and life will be swell
- Perform certain crisis-management/brain-teaser routines in order to manipulate one’s self, and one’s staff, into more productivity and happiness
The Work the System methodology takes a decidedly different stance. It goes deeper, calling for a simple “tweak” in the leader’s underlying perspective. The subsequent necessary actions come as a natural result of this new posture.
In my business I worked 80-100 hours a week for fifteen years, with an income just barely enough to support my two kids and me. (I was a single custodial parent for most of that decade and a half.) When the new vision finally came to me sixteen years ago, I immediately turned things around. In this same business I now work 2 hours a week while my personal income is dozens of times what it was back then. My company, a specialized telecom service firm with approximately 1,500 competitors nationwide, is #1 in my industry by a variety of statistics including a beyond-category profit margin. I’ve had Centratel for just over 30 years. I have six other businesses, too. They pretty much run themselves too, while I spend my time writing, reading traveling, hanging out…
Work the System’s simple premise addresses the following reality: The typical business owner sees the world as a complex mass of sights, sounds, and events in which one must work long, stressed hours in order to survive. There are almost always concurrent cash flow problems. There is no time or money for R&D, to coddle customers or adequately train staff or to otherwise perform the tasks necessary for growth and freedom.
An entire life can be spent like this, killing fires, adding Band-Aid after Band-Aid, performing tedious recurring routines and scrounging operating funds.
What is the foundational reason for business mediocrity and failure? The leader isn’t seeing the mechanisms that are producing the results. If a leader is blind to the mechanics, he or she won’t be able to adjust those mechanics in order to climb out of the morass and into the sunlight. Read that again.
This is important: The leader’s hectic fire-killing methodology is NOT the foundational problem: It’s only a SYMPTOM of the leader’s failure to see the real-world mechanics of why things happen as they do.
And what is the truth of the world’s mechanics? It’s that life is not a confused mish-mash of sights, sounds and events. Rather, it’s an orderly collection of separate processes. The very day that one viscerally grasps this system-separateness, and the beauty of it, the world begins to make sense and therefore becomes easy to navigate. From this place it’s not that difficult to arrange the things to, “get what one wants.”
Here’s something else about how the things of the world work: Every system in our lives executes step-by-step, over time, in a linear progression.
And, this too: In this moment of time, every condition in our lives has been preceded by a process. So it makes sense to spend this day, this moment in time, attending full-time to our processes, to adjust them to produce exactly the results we want.
This very day, we must begin to control our systems if we are to create the future results we desire.
The Work the System methodology goes “one layer deeper.” requiring only a simple change in mindset – an “outside and slightly elevated” vantage point – a stance that clearly sees the separate systems of the world. Once one “gets” the new perspective, subsequent correct actions are obvious. The WTS mindset is self-evident as it paves the way to incredible efficiency at work and in personal life. The added bonus is a relaxed, positive state of mind in which one feels control over events and outcomes. The WTS methodology is not hocus-pocus, mystical, esoteric or an exercise in blind faith. It’s about simple believable mechanics. There is no need for a list of tips, or for motivational gimmicks.
Again (for emphasis): Once the vision is acquired – the ability to perceive, moment-to-moment, the myriad of separate systems in one’s world – the next steps are obvious. The first third of my book Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, is geared to help the reader “get” the new mindset. The last two thirds of the book provide structure. (You can download the book in PDF and/or audio for free on the website. The hard cover version is there too, at a 60% discount from Amazon prices).
Remember this: Our individual lives are not inherently chaotic and they don’t have to be at the mercy outside influences. You can manage things so that doesn’t happen. I can show you how.
So, inductive reasoning points to the following simple conclusion: The world as a whole is 99.9% flawless in its operation despite most people’s penchant to focus on the relatively few malfunctions that remain front and center in their fire-killing lives.
Just because we allow ourselves to get caught up with imperfection doesn’t mean imperfection is the way of the world. We humans tend to major in minors….
At work, how does one fix what is inefficient? Break down the workplace into separate linear systems – how the phone is answered, how the bank deposit is made, how a sales presentation is performed. For each system, in a simple 1-2-3 step format, create documentation describing the execution of that process. Get the staff to “climb on board” this system-improvement quest (more on that in a minute). Then, with your coworkers, brainstorm improvements and then, updating the documentation, improve the sequence of steps until they are perfect. Reinsert the perfected system procedure into the operation and begin to use it.
As a matter of policy, everyone in the organization will execute each perfected system in exactly the same way every single time.
Does this sound regimented? Yes, it is regimented, but the release valve is in granting your people instant and generous autonomy to “tweak” systems to higher and higher efficiency. This is a corporate culture centered around system improvement, not fire-killing. The staff creates and adjusts business systems all day long. That’s what they DO. Managers and front line staff constantly “work their systems” too, relentlessly improving processes to create desired results, rather than dealing with the bad results of unseen and therefore unmanaged systems.
So, the idea is to create perfect systems and then have those systems execute in that perfect way every single time. And so, if a business is a collection of individual systems, and every one of them is executing perfectly, will that company be perfect?
Well, it may not be perfect. But it will damn well leave the competition in the dust…
When a problem occurs, that problem is a gift because it indicates that a further system improvement can be made, thus making the whole company just a little bit better. It’s very cool: Your systems will get better with time.
The staff buy-in? It’s enthusiastic because team members are not just managing processes, they are defining them. They own the processes they have created and adjusted.
This is called “working the system.” Focus on management of the systems that create the results and not on shuffling around the bad results that occur due to unseen and therefore unmanaged systems. Spend your day working on system improvement and the great results will just show up….
In the long term getting everyone to climb on board – and then stay on board – is a simple matter. Once everything is in place, you and your people make more money and have more time, the work environment is serene, and there is a powerful sense of pride.
It’s a new way to see life; a new way to live.
Join us in our next 120-Day Transformational Group Coaching class. It begins in the first week of April, 2015
Want to know more? Go to www.workthesystem.com
Photo by Egor Gribanov via flickr used under a creative Commons License.