We’re about to launch our ninth consecutive 120-day Transformational Group Coaching class.
You might want to climb on board this session. It may be a while before we do another one.

Chapter 16

Your Systems Mindset Analogy

Carpenter_Systems_Comps_R6.inddHow can I remember to apply the Systems Mindset strategy moment to moment so that eventually it takes hold? Is there a list of points I should remember? Or is there some kind of affirmation I can repeatedly recite? And do I need to remember the concepts every minute? 

Don’t memorize lists and don’t employ affirmations. And for that matter, there’s no need to make public promises to your friends and family about what you’re doing (as if that would somehow force you to this better place). And don’t take my word for any of this. Just go through the paces with me and then make up your own mind. And in this age of moral equivalency in which taking a firm stand is too often seen as intolerance, I challenge you to gut-believe certain principles. In fact, be judgmental. Don’t be concerned about what others say you should think. You decide what you believe.

In any case, don’t obsess about your new direction. Rather, simply keep your eyes open, observing and listening to the everyday world that surrounds you. But at the beginning, if you must do something to key into the Systems Mindset, there is a tactic you can employ with yourself. When your former my-world-is-chaos mindset resurfaces and begins to drag you down, rescue yourself with a real-world analogy. When you get distracted, it will pull you back up to your new, much more productive vantage point. In this chapter I’m going to explain the analogy concept, give you a recent example from my own life, and then finish by giving you a few recommendations.

So let’s go back to the basics—the everyday physicality that you personally can’t deny. Do you believe that sound comes from your throat when you talk? Can you doubt the existence of the tree that stands in the backyard? Is there any question that there are toes on your feet? And speaking of your feet, my bet is that you are totally confident that, right now, you can tie your shoes. My point is that, to give power to your analogy, it should describe a physical reality that is indisputable. You want your analogy to be gut-level believable.

A smartphone app analogy is perfect for reminding yourself of the Systems Mindset and the beauty of becoming preoccupied with system improvement. Although all the systems of the world stand alone, a smartphone app is especially vivid in its separateness. It has a life of its own, right there on your handheld device. I came up with this particular analogy from my own experience, and maybe it will work for you. (Personally, I don’t need a Systems Mindset analogy anymore because the thinking has been hard-wired deep inside me for the last seventeen years, but I devised this one as an illustration for you.)

This analogy bolsters the strength of my Systems Mindset posture and suggests the level of attention I should give to every recurring system of my life: to see each as a separate entity, take it apart and examine the subsystems that compose it, and then make improvements on those subsystems. Like any system, an app has a purpose: to create a result. The development of an app starts with someone who sees a need. Then, often with a team, this person—let’s call him or her “the owner” of the app—heads up a project to accomplish the actual code-writing. That happens, the app is released, and here is where the Systems Mindset/System Improvement analogy comes in.

If it’s useful, people will use the app to add value to their lives. Then, ongoing, there will be version updates: The owner will think of a small improvement—or a user will recommend one—and then the owner will make an incremental enhancement, tweaking the code, making the app a little bit better. Usually these version updates are routine and unrushed. Other times, especially after a new release, they happen fast because a serious issue pops up.

What is the genesis of this particular analogy? Awhile back I became enamored with an app that allows me to record a voice message and then instantly send it to individuals or groups, via email. We informally named it Emailed Voice mail (EVM). It allows me to create and then deliver a voice message anytime or from anywhere, which perfectly fits my point-of-sale philosophy in which I ruthlessly take care of things now. Another benefit is that I can deliver a voice message without disturbing the recipient.

I really liked the EVM app, but there were problems, one of which made me want to quit using it. Periodically, as I recorded a message, the recording would unpredictably stop and I would have to begin the recording all over again. This went on for a while and became more and more of an annoyance. Finally, I delved into the app’s online information and found the creator/owner. He was anxious to listen, and we went back and forth in email, trying to isolate the problem. We finally discovered the glitch and he instantly made a code modification. Within a couple of hours the new version downloaded automatically to my iPhone and my cut-off problem was fixed, never to recur.

Because of that small tweak in the code, the app became a little bit better than it was before.

This is a perfect example of system improvement, and the analogy prompts me to do things now and reminds me that my world is a collection of systems which I must intensely manage.

As you conjure up an analogy for yourself, remember the crux of the System Improvement approach: The end result of a single system improvement is that the primary system gets a little bit better. Over time, relentlessly perform these subsystem tweaks—these system improvements—and the primary system will become a masterpiece. Work the system!

I made this point earlier in a different context: Another benefit of a Systems Mindset analogy is that it illustrates the beauty of having a problem: a problem leads directly to a system improvement. In my businesses,
we welcome glitches with open arms, our “red flags to betterment.”

What are some other analogy possibilities? Build one around the human body, a car, a tree, an airplane, a city, a retail store, a restaurant, or a subsystem of any of these. Anything! Choose one based on solid mechanical reality and be sure it feels right for you, and then pack it around in your consciousness. After awhile, you won’t have to overtly recall it, because unconsciously and consciously, you’ll be seeing everything in your world via the Systems Mindset. (But it’s my bet you will always remember your first analogy as a pleasant reminder of your early Systems Mindset days.)

P.S. We’re about to launch our ninth consecutive 120-day Transformational Group Coaching class. You might want to climb on board this session. It may be a while before we do another one.