Over the years I have come to realise that I am driven by two separate forces. The first of these is an internal drive to be “successful”. For me, this generally expresses itself in a desire to achieve certain goals rather than to win in direct competition. What I want to achieve is very personal to me and often at odds with traditional views of success and ambition (but not always). The second force that shapes all of my behaviour is an innate laziness. As a result not only am I driven to achieve, but I am always looking for an easier way, a new angle that might give me an edge. There has to be a better (easier) way!
Generally, this is a good thing as it spurs curiosity and creativity, but it does have a downside. I am constantly restless as I am never happy with the status quo and my laziness can lead me to leave things to the last minute then panic to get things done. Over the years, I have learnt that these natural tendencies aren’t that helpful as they often lead to rework. The lazy man in me hates rework. As a consequence, I have become drawn to look past the obvious and often a short term solution (the status quo way of looking at issues) and instead to focus on understanding the natural dynamics of a situation. My logic is simple, the lazy man wants to address an issue once and once only, and I figure that if you understand the dynamics that control and influence a situation you can purposefully design responses and actions to deliberately use these forces to support the outcome that you want, making success the most likely or default outcome.
To illustrate the concept of natural dynamics, Stephen Covey used the metaphor of the farm. Simply, if you want to be a successful farmer you better know about the seasons and their impact on farming outcomes. Plant in spring and harvest in autumn. If you ignore the seasons you stand little chance of being successful. It is a great metaphor, but I’m no farmer so how do you go about identifying the dynamics in your specific situation? There are many ways, here are some of my favourites.
- Ask why? This one drove my Mum crazy, but if you ask why enough and answer seriously, you can begin to get below the surface answers and much closer to the true cause and effect relationships. There is a formal method known as 5 whys which you can learn and use to formalise this.
- Do some research, it’s highly likely that someone else, somewhere else has experienced this issue or one very similar. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply borrow one. Start with Google, do a few searches and “follow your nose.”
- Use the discipline of systems thinking and their system archetypes to guide your thinking. I find the limits to growth (finding and eliminating constraining forces) and shifting the burden (finding and eliminating short term solutions that cause long term issues) archetypes particularly useful.
- Let go and do something else. It is amazing how often the process of letting go and doing something you love will cause that ah ha moment. For me that is strolling along the beach, whatever it is for you find it and use it.
There are many other tools and techniques you can use as well. These include the many root cause analysis tools and numerous process improvement frameworks. I believe that power comes from mastery so pick your favourite and master it.
I’d love to know what tools or frameworks are your favourite? Please share them below.