In anticipation of the holidays, I spent an entire day writing an advance posting of dots for the week. It felt like a massive expenditure of time to invest in the project and I wondered whether it was worth the effort.
However, when I think about it, I’m sure I actually dedicated less time per dot by writing them in a batch. The efficiencies of having all my materials out, getting in that “writing groove”, and having a list of ideas rather than spending time thinking of them individually made the overall process more productive.
It’s often easier to do things bit by bit but sometimes you’re better off devoting a big chunk of time to really get something done. You could clean the garage one shelf at a time but be more efficient hauling everything out onto the driveway and doing it all at once. You might write one paragraph of a report but save time by closing your office door and crafting the whole thing. An afternoon of concentrating on filing your taxes may actually take less time than doing it in stages.
The hardest part of a big task is getting started on it. Once you do, try mightily to keep going until it’s done.
So much of our routine business is conducted on autopilot, not because our current providers are necessarily excellent rather because it is too much of a hassle to change them. Think about your health insurance, car/home insurance, banking, phone network, cable, internet, doctors, subscriptions, software, retirement savings or investments – most likely they are with the same institutions you have been using for years. We often allow things to renew automatically without further investigation because of the time it takes to do something else.
While we don’t have the bandwidth to research every decision or spend the time canceling and adding every time a service comes up for renewal, it is likely worth the effort to make some conscious decisions to do so on occasion. It’s also worth considering the long-term cost when you choose any on-going provider, whether that be a subscription or service professional. It may be tempting to jump at the low-cost introductory offer but remember they are counting on you to continue when the discount expires because you don’t want to take the time to wait in their customer service queue to cancel.
But if you are the provider and not just the consumer, allow the “it’s-hard-to-change” principle to work in your favor. Make your initial encounter enticing enough to get the consumer started on an automatic renewal program and enhance your chances that they’ll stick with you for the long term.
That first step has disproportionate value for everyone.
I understand the volatility of weather patterns and the difficulty in predicting specific outcomes. What I don’t understand are the inconsistencies within the same app forecasting for the same time period. For example, in the “daily forecast” the app showed a high of 50 degrees, but in the “hourly” predictions, 48 was the warmest it would get. I realize there is little difference in two degrees, but the lack of internal integrity calls the whole forecast into question for me.
Think about your organization and whether your employees act in the same manner as the weather app. Do your customers receive different answers depending upon who they ask? Do you provide updated information to your front line so that facts can remain current and accurate? Is there a process to monitor and evaluate the replies that are given?
Maybe the variances are minor but there should be certain responses that are consistent throughout. Strengthen your communication with internal alignment and practiced precision about the numbers that matter.
Musician Lzzy Hale bought her house because it had a mantle to display her prized trophies: one, a Grammy that her band Halestorm won in 2012, and her “other favorite trophy”, the Schukill County Fair 3rd place trophy that the band won in 1997. She describes that as “equally monumental – mile marker 1.”
Halestorm has been performing over 20 years with another Grammy nomination and many other mile markers along their path, but Lzzy stays grounded by remembering the band’s humble beginnings and the roots that got the group started.
We often focus on the end goal but sometimes forget the importance of mile marker 1. It’s easy to diminish the importance of that initial landmark – when someone actually pays you for what you do, when you are quoted for the first time, when you receive that initial recognition – but it can be that early beacon of hope that keeps you going forward.
Starting on a long journey is tough. By the time you have slogged through hundreds of steps to get to the first mile, you need a marker to acknowledge that even though there are many steps to go, those initial ones have meant something. So, even if it’s a third-place trophy from a county fair, cherish the markers that indicate all those incremental steps are getting you somewhere.
I have been lamenting about my filthy windows since winter. I tried to borrow a power washer to no avail. The person I tried to hire never returned my calls. Finally, my housemate purchased a power washer and tonight we tackled the big task.
It struck me that with my “flippable” windows that tilt in, I ended up doing all of the window washing from inside without any power washer involved. In other words, I could have had this done since March. Yes, power washing the screens made a huge difference. Yes, washing the outside casings and siding makes the house look so much better. But for the part that bugged me the most, no new equipment was needed; it was just a matter of doing it.
Isn’t that the case with so many dreaded tasks? We put off exercising until we join a gym or fitness class when simple walking would make progress toward strength and health. We avoid beginning that project at work until we install new project management software when a simple legal pad could get us started. We eat out because we don’t have 100% of the ingredients instead of making an easy substitution.
The mind works magic when trying to avoid an unpleasant task. The next time you catch yourself listing reasons why you can’t do something until ______, power wash the thought from your head. I’ll bet there is a way, right now, without anything new, that you can take a step forward.
When implementing something new or creating any kind of change there is a tension between wanting to be more ready and wanting to begin. It’s scary to launch when things are still imperfect but waiting too long can be a curse as well.
Researchers Amy Collier and Jen Ross have coined the term “not-yetness” to describe this not yet fully evolved or developed condition. “Not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not checklisting everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve.”
They write of not-yetness in the context of technology in distance education, but I believe the concept can apply to all manner of projects. We should embrace the beginning and doing as a method for discovery, without any expectation that what we undertake will have been totally understood by just thinking and not doing. If we become more comfortable with the idea of “not yet”, it opens a window to the perspective that we expect to learn more, that we acknowledge that things aren’t fully figured out and that we are prepared to have a few things wrong at the initial stage.
Not-yetness lets us off the hook of perfection and gives us permission to publicly begin.
What are you working on that is not-yet-developed but could be shared today?
An unknown author captures the sentiment of what it feels like to be a change agent by comparing it to a crocus at the start of spring. The poem conveys this challenge:
It takes courage to be crocus-minded.
I’d rather wait until June like wise roses, when the hazards of winter are safely behind and I’m expected.
Everything is ready for roses, but crocuses?
Knifing up through hard-frozen ground and snow, sticking their necks out, because they believe in spring and have something personal and emphatic to say about it.
I am by nature rose-minded, even when I have studied the situation and know there are wrongs that need righting, affirmations that need stating – Well, I’d rather wait until June.
But somebody has to care enough to think through and work through hard ground because she believes she can do it and knows there is someone greater than herself to help her break through.
Me? Crocus-Minded? I pray for courage.
It is always easier to let someone else go first; to allow them to forge the path and create a more conducive environment for growth, but, like crocuses, hardiness is required for those who wish to impact change.
Do you have the courage it takes to be crocus-minded – to persist even in the face of adversity – to go first and push through frozen ground to achieve growth? Use the spring blossom as a metaphor to remind yourself that it is worth the effort to be that burst of color in the snow.
There is much written about leaders but not enough attention is given to those who follow. In this video clip “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” Derek Sivers highlights the critical role that followers play in creating a movement –especially the pivotal role of the first follower.
“The first follower publicly shows everyone else how to follow,” he says. Once someone follows the leader “it’s not about the leader anymore; it’s about them.”
We often give accolades and recognition to the leader but could do more to acknowledge the role that early followers play in creating change. It takes courage to be among the few who pledge their support to an early movement. It requires bravery to be an early adapter and to join in instead of waiting on the sidelines to see if others accept what is happening.
Leaders should think carefully about who could be the first followers to help them build the momentum needed for their plans to gain traction and then line up the early support of those people.
But everyone can play a critical role and exert influence in change efforts. Take the bold step of being a first follower to jump-start the movement you care about most.
If you need an example of a growth mindset in action, look no further than the All-Pro Curling Team, a group of four former NFL players who have their sights set on making the 2022 Olympics as curlers. All-Pro Jared Allen and three other retired football players decided their competitive spirit wasn’t satisfied even though their professional gridiron careers had ended. So, they are seriously striving to make the Olympics in this lesser-known sport.
And taking it seriously. They have hired a former Olympian as coach. They fly from Nashville to Minnesota to practice on “good ice”. They played the full game against formidable competition to gain the experience. They understand the value of film review and making modifications based on feedback from coaches.
They began their journey three years before they would need to qualify for the Olympics. They know they are starting from the beginning but bring with them a growth mindset that tells them they can learn and get better, and they are willing to put in the effort.
Allen told ESPN that their biggest challenge was learning how to slide correctly on the ice. “We all fell a bunch,” he said. Yet they kept going, trying to win the Super Bowl of curling by first learning how to fall. “Our short-term goals are to continually get better: fundamentals, strategy, sweeping. We know if we master these little things, it will take us a long way,” he told the Associated Press.
In three years, these current novices just might make the Olympic team. In three years, what do you wish to accomplish? The time to start your journey is now.
Source: A new frozen tundra by Jimmy Golen for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, January 6, 2019, p 8B
In yesterday’s dot, I shared the Change Framework (developed by School Retool) that provides a model to articulate an overarching reason for change, identify behaviors that would illustrate the aspiration is occurring, determine a few big ideas toward achieving those behaviors and design several small projects or hacks to make progress toward those ideas.
Hacks are small experiments intentionally chosen to hopefully take a step toward achieving a big idea and to also help the changemakers quickly discover what does or does not work. Hacks are about learning by doing so that iterations can be made early on in the process.
Levers for Change can help generate hacks through focused brainstorming. You can pick one of the levers – Space, Events, Schedule, Finance, Process, Role, Ritual, Incentive or Communication – and try to generate as many hacks as possible to help achieve a big idea through changes in that category. For example, if your Big Idea is to Increase Community Involvement, you could attempt to hack in Space by opening a satellite center or having office hours in a mall; you could have a hack in Roles by redesigning a position to do more community outreach; Communication could involve a thank you note or follow up call for every community member who engages with you, etc. School Retool examples can be seen in this 2-minute video.
No matter how much you strategize, plan or design your initial ideas are not going to be perfect. By creating hacks – and hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks – you will take enough small steps to achieve big change. Think broadly and creatively about the many levers of change you have at your disposal and then get started by pulling one.
For a copy of the Lever of Change handout, click here.