As The Crow Flies

Developing a strategy for a company is challenging without clear sight of our target. We don’t know if what we’re aiming for is right or wrong and it’s nearly impossible anticipating all the possible contingencies. Are we focused on the right things? Do we have everything in place? Are we positioned to succeed? What is our backup plan? These are questions we need to be asking ourselves, and many more. If we fail to answer our questions with certainty, we will always be aiming at a moving target.

We need a strategy with a straight line of sight (as the crow flies) to make sure we hit the target. If “fake it ’til you make it” is your motto, then you’ll be sure to have a long winding road ahead.

Developing a strategy is similar to cooking a meal. When we understand what the outcome needs to be, we tend to take a different approach to reach our goal. It works the same way we prepare a meal. We flip the package over or follow a recipe and read the directions. Step 1… Step 2… at 375° for 40 minutes.

We carefully follow directions and gather together the ingredients, how we need to mix them, when to mix them, at what temperature, and for how long. We clearly identify what we need to do. But, sometimes the directions are not always clear. Other times we think they are, but are they? Understanding how to do something is one thing, understanding (why) we do something is entirely different.

Did you know crows are often identified as clever tricksters?

Wrong Diagnosis

Discover how creating systems help minimize common mistakes in the workplace.

Oregon Research Institute completed a study of doctors asking a group of radiologists at the University of Oregon: How do you decide if a person has cancer from a stomach X-ray? The doctors explained there were seven major signs. The Oregon Researchers then asked the doctors to judge the probability of cancer in ninety-six different individual stomach ulcers.

Without telling the doctors what the researchers were up to, they showed the doctors each ulcer twice, mixing up the duplicates randomly in the pile so the doctors wouldn’t notice they were being asked to diagnose the exact same ulcer they had already diagnosed.

Surprisingly, the doctors’ diagnoses were all over the map: The experts didn’t agree with each other. Even more surprisingly, when presented with duplicates of the same ulcer, every doctor had contradicted himself and rendered more than one diagnosis: These doctors apparently could not even agree with themselves.

You could beat the doctor by replacing him with an equation created by people who knew nothing about medicine and had simply asked a few questions of doctors.

In fact, I was able to identify a wrong diagnosis myself, perhaps you had a similar experience. The only difference may lie in how we arrived at knowing the diagnosis was wrong. Having a gut feeling is one thing, but knowing with certainty is something else. There is no evidence to support a gut instinct. Read my story about how I systematically analyzed information to identify the correct diagnosis.

The above is a slightly edited excerpt from: Michael Lewis. “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds.” Long story short, the system ensures the result.

Let’s take a look at another real-life example.

Which is more important, the system or individual? Watch the 40 second video.

In this case, algorithms ensured the result because humans often make mistakes or become easily distracted. In only 8 seconds the video demonstrates how an algorithm can prevent common mistakes in human judgement. Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 System warns of a wreck before it occurred and immediately alerted the driver while stopping the vehicle.

INTJ vs Doctor

I challenged a doctors diagnosis back in April based on my research. I was certain the doctor was wrong. He said something about the reliability of information found online.

You have to be careful what you read online, he said.

He told me people come in all the time citing something they read online. In the same way you might hear your customers talking about what they read online. He told me, “I’ve been doing this for 37 years.” I thought to myself, that sounds familiar.

Later, on the second visit, the doctor surprisingly changed his mind. He asked, “How were you sure about the diagnosis?” I sensed he was puzzled by my findings. I downplayed it by saying, I know how to decipher data. In this case, I had to decipher bad medical advice from good medical advice in the same way I parse any information.

It came down to being able to identify inconsistencies within the information. It can be spoken words, written words, photos, etc. The analysis works at a level of deductive logic by asking, “is this even possible?” This sort of thing happens all the time, nearly every day, in all aspects of life. My choice is one of two things, 1) speak up when something is wrong or 2) say nothing and allow the “told you so” to occur on its own without saying it.

You could beat the doctor by replacing him with an equation created by people who knew nothing about medicine and had simply asked a few questions of doctors. — The Undoing Project

Typically I go with the second option, but this was a health issue. My motive lies squarely on the prevention of something. In this case, I was trying to prevent a second visit to the doctor because “efficiency.” Part of the process I go through analyzing something is to prevent something from occurring, or existing, or the need to exist. My second doctors visit didn’t need to occur.

Cut to the Chase

I am always impressed by simple systems. Here is one example I often experience ordering food; it could be Chinese, pizza, or the deli. The entire phone call in under 20 seconds.

Dial the phone number… phone rings…

Hi Brian. Thank you for calling blank. Would you like the same thing you ordered last time?

Me: yes

Okay, great. See you at 4:40

Me: thank you

Backward Goals

Let’s explore how things work in a systems environment. Let’s say each puzzle piece illustrated below represents goals and the center is the arbitrary achievement hub of our brain. People conventionally work “toward” reaching a goal, but this is backwards in a systems environment.

Now, let’s view the puzzle pieces as representing each part of our business and the center piece as an arbitrary achievement hub. Again, conventionally working toward the center to reach a goal. This too is backwards.

The “goals” and “parts” of our business should be built into the system (center hub) and worked outwardly. They become the “result” of the central system. They are a side-effect of the system where the system ensures the result and not simply aiming for something.

With goals, we aim for the bullseye, but we don’t always hit it.

Hypothetical example: Let’s say our referral business is virtually nonexistent and we want to turn it around. We would make it a goal to get new referral business. We would work towards achieving something. The idea becomes an area we focus some effort and hope for the best.

When we set up a central system in the beginning, the referral business becomes a side-effect result of the system, not something we work towards as an afterthought or corrective measure in the future. It occurs on its own because the result is built into the system.

Real-life example: How to paint a room in 6 minutes was never a goal. The ability to paint a room in 6 minutes is the result of a system where the system gave birth to the achievement. There is a valuable lesson to understand when Scott Adams said, “Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners” and it’s no different from what I’ve preached for 20 years.

The concept may sound profound, but once we fully grasp how systems work and understand how the pieces fit, things harmoniously fall into place on their own. The system ensures the result.

Arbitrary Goals

“If your metric for the value of success by worldly standards is “buy a house” and “have a nice car” and you spend twenty years working your ass off to achieve it; once it’s achieved, the metric has nothing left to give you.

Its growth that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements. In this sense, goals, as they are conventionally defined, “graduate from college,” “buy a lake house,” “lose 15 pounds” are limited in the amount of happiness they can produce in our lives. They may be helpful when pursuing quick short-term benefits, but as guides for the overall trajectory of our life, they suck.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Mark Manson Chapter 7 – 7:48

Arbitrary – based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

A meaningful goal would be to become smarter in order to identify what is meaningful.

Systems

Systems are an important part of running a business. They are the living breathing schematics for how a business operates on a daily basis. Systems originate from developing a business strategy and vital for maintaining a healthy business and employee morale. They provide an uncluttered illustration of how a business is organized and how it needs to work.

Operating a business without some sort of strategy or system may lead to hardships such as poor employee morale, psychological issues, focus issues, deadline issues, money issues, growth issues, profit issues, new business issues, loss of business, or an inability to obtain referral business; to name a few.

From a problem solving perspective in relation to smooth operations, I am looking for the cause of common problems and seeking to understand their origins then implement the solution into the system. We need to be asking, Why is this a problem and how can we prevent this problem in the future?

Systems are intended to prevent a vast majority of common problems experienced running a business. Many problems encountered are simply the result of not having a system in place to prevent the problem from occurring. A haphazard approach to running a business will not lead to much of anything except perpetual chaotic nonsense.

The Big Picture

In my line of work I often find myself talking about the “big picture” in relation to systems development. On occasion people ask me to explain what I mean by the big picture. Imagine a pile of puzzle pieces, each piece represents something connected to our business and our environment.

Seeing the big picture is having an ability to look at a pile of puzzle pieces and know what the puzzle looks like without putting it together. It’s a visionary thing. In other words, knowing how the pieces connect and work together.

In my case, that ability comes from being in business 30 years and studying each piece individually and understanding the impact each piece has on other pieces; the good pieces, the bad pieces and the gold pieces.

A disciplined analytical process allows the discovery of which pieces are irrelevant, unnecessary, obsolete, a waste of time, or have little impact, etc.

Systems vs. Goals

Why do we fail at reaching our goals? What are we lacking? Systems-driven people hold the key to answering both questions. They create efficient and effective ways of looking at things. They are big picture driven and simplify ideas to the core. They put things in place to make sure things happen.

The things we do every day are systems. The things we plan to do are goals.

Systems-driven people are effective because they focus their energy in the right direction. They have a clear path to their destination. They see the end as clear as the beginning. They accomplish what they set out to do every time they apply their system. They are effective at reaching expected results efficiently.

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
— Peter Drucker

People generally know what goals they want to achieve, although, they are ineffective in achieving those goals. We can set goals all we want, but if we fail to put things in place to reach our goals, we will fail every time. While this post was in the oven baking, I gave the following example of a system on Facebook.

If every day when you woke up in the morning you tripped a wire as you walk down the hallway that starts the coffee pot as you walk to the bathroom, what just happened? It’s a series of events put in place to make something happen.

Simply going through the motions ensures the result.

Systems are similar to building toy models. We learn how the pieces come together and what we need to make it happen. When we’re finished, we experience the end-result. The highest benchmark for any company to achieve is implementing the right products, the right systems, in the right place, at the right time.