I was just finishing up putting the second of this month’s webcasts to bed and decided to check my email while the program I use was doing whatever it does when it’s sewing ones and zeroes together.
Checking your Inbox is dangerous, especially if you’re wired like I am. The risk of distraction is huge and its likelihood almost unavoidable. The number of possible paths is endless and the illusion of encountering something truly wonderful is just possible enough to draw you from that LinkedIn invitation from an old colleague to that Facebook request to be friends from someone you haven’t thought about since High School, on to that website you’ve always wanted to explore. From there, it’s down the rabbit hole to who-knows-what or where.
Consequently, I’ve taken to checking out the two or three blogs I’ve decided are ‘must reads’ first, leaving my actual emails to wait until I’ve finished everything else I really, really have to get done. I generally, check the blogs first thing in the morning and then again in the early afternoon. I check the emails after I’ve finished everything else I have to do just before it’s time to pack it all in and go to bed. So, if you email and don’t hear from me until the next morning or afternoon you now know why.
This morning, I had an early morning breakfast meeting and never got online. I’m glad I waited. Had I opened this particular blog post the meeting would have been a waste of time because the blog’s content would have left me thinking of little else.
It suggested something I’ve been thinking about for some time: one of three fundamental truths that I’ve been pondering a lot lately. The first is the difference between a project and a process and the importance of each. The second is the need to embrace and celebrate failure with just as much enthusiasm as we celebrate success and the third is the need to cultivate a clear awareness of where we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, as well as the objectivity necessary to know when to walk away… from anything or everything.
The blog was powerful enough to draw me away from just about everything else I’m supposed to be doing right now because I believe all three are powerfully integrated and critical to our success.
The difference between process and programs is profound and certainly worthy of a blog post or two of its own. The fact that too many people treat them as if they were same is worthy of comment as well. The inherent problem is that both are focused on change: moving from where you are to where you want to be, accomplishing strategic goals and objectives or streamlining policies and procedures.
Recognizing there is a difference and what that difference might be is really where the confusion begins. Programs are generally short-term, have very specific and focused goals and objectives and have a finite beginning and end. They are generally limited in scope, require the participation and cooperation of others and to be successful occur within a known timeframe.
You can institute and embrace all kinds of programs: marketing programs, safety programs, performance-based compensation programs, programs, ad infinitum. There is almost certainly a program for just about everything and anything you want to improve, advance or accomplish and almost all of them have a place within the greater context of a process.
Process is all about change as well. But, its scale is greater and the one thing that differentiates it most from a program is that it has no end. Its goals are so profound, so lofty – almost unobtainable, perhaps – it is clear from the beginning, the constant work of improvement and achieving success is never really quite finished and this is where the problem resides for many of us: the inability to differentiate… That, and our unwillingness to abandon programs that haven’t worked, aren’t working and aren’t likely to work in the future.
The abandonment of programs that are unsuccessful and our ability to learn from our failures is essential to success in our industry or any other, for that matter.
Too many of us are unwilling to take whatever lessons can be harvested from the failure of a program or initiative, learn from the experience and then apply that knowledge to the next project or program. Instead, we are all too willing to sacrifice just about everything we’ve already accomplished in support of an unworthy, unreasonable or seemingly impossible task.
It’s been my contention for years that few of us ever learn anything from doing something ‘right’ the first time anyway… or, the second or third, for that matter. We don’t spend enough time thinking about what we did ‘right’ to learn anything. In fact, few of us think about how or why things went the way we think they should have gone in the first place, especially if our expectations have been met.
Most of us learn from our failures because there is generally a significant cost associated with each and every one of them, and because failure of any kind is expensive: expensive in dollars and expensive psychologically, we are loath to admit we’ve failed. We just keep crashing ourselves against the rocks trying to find that tiny and elusive passage into safe harbor of success.
So, the message is clear. We need to learn how to define a project so both its success and failure will be obvious to everyone. We need to recognize those signs most likely to identify a project when and if it has failed. We need to learn how to abandon a project when its abandonment is appropriate. And, then, we need to learn everything we can from the experience so we aren’t likely to repeat those failures again in the course of initiating our next and newest program.
In order to do any or all of that, we must also develop a keen ability to honestly judge where we are with regard to all the programs we have in place at any given moment.
No false pride. No unrealistic expectations. No self-delusions. Just the simple ability to recognize where we started, where we are going, the path we’ve chosen, the plan we have formulated, and whether or not our assumptions about any of this are in line with the realities we are experiencing and likely to result in the success we are seeking.
That may sound easier than it really is because that kind of honesty is rare, especially when it comes to something we may be passionate about, and frankly, I’m not sure we should be doing anything we’re not that passionate about, like carving four hours out of a weekend to share something like this with you.
So, there you have it, three concepts I’ve been thinking about ever since I opened my email and read the blog post: three concepts I feel are critical for us to understand, accept and react to: three concepts rolled up into one not-so-easy to implement strategy for a better tomorrow.
I feel better for having thought enough about it enough to share it, but not as good as I’ll feel if you let me know what you think and where you are: whether or not you recognize and celebrate failure, which programs and processes you are involved with, and just how far in your quest for success: your odyssey to optimize your business and/or your life, you’ve come.
In the meantime, I think I’ll finally get around to opening my Inbox.
Until next time… Stay well. Take Care. Make Money. Have Fun. And, don’t do business with anyone you don’t like. There’s probably a pretty good reason they make you uncomfortable!