So last week we talked about success vulnerabilities, and how you can use that mindset to focus on where best to make improvements. Because after all, what can’t use improvement? But making the specific improvements that will help you grow? That’s a win. Everything carries you forward, closer to the eventual end goal of your business.
But when you actually looked at your success vulnerabilities, I bet it was completely overwhelming. I mean, just to use me as an example, my success vulnerabilities include my entire sales funnel — everything from traffic to signups to the on boarding. It’s hard to look at this kind of thing and see it in terms of 1% improvements. And I’m sure you have similar reaction, no matter what your particular issue is.
But you can look at it as a big project, or as a series of little projects. It’s like building an addition on your house.
A Big Project Is Also a Series of Small Projects
Yes, it’s an addition. But it’s also a series of small projects. Planning, demo, framing, roofing, wiring, windows, sheathing, drywall, painting, flooring, etc. That’s a lot of steps, for sure. And that’s why we get so overwhelmed, because our brains can’t hold that many steps in working memory (especially when we don’t know how to do all of them). But each individual step is a project, and it’s usually a relatively simple project. And, it’s a step that if done in a reasonable order, doesn’t require much, if any, interaction with the other small projects.
And, because the steps of each project are simple, they can easily be broken down themselves. If not to the thirty minute chunks we advocate for the CEC, at least to 1 to 2 hour chunks.
But these are starting to sound like whole projects, not improvements! Projects are too big for you to take on when you’re this busy! Well, yes, and no. We could argue that the projects themselves are improvements on the existing systems in your business. You know, those underbuilt and patchy systems we referred to in Week One?
These aren’t weekend projects — they’re big, and integral to a mature, stable business. And their very importance makes them difficult to take a bite out of, like an Everlasting Gobstopper.
I’m also going to point out that you can’t make marginal improvements on something that doesn’t yet exist. If your existing system is a shed, and you want a proper house, you have to build from scratch at some point. Additions to a shed are just going to be painfully backwards.
Shifting Between Foundations and Refinement
So we have one metaphor — that of building an addition to your house. But I’m going to get another one going here. It’s an analogy smorgasbord.
When I was growing up, approximately 65% of girls took piano lessons. I didn’t — I took singing lessons. But my sister did. Piano, as you know, is a complex instrument for each hand plays different notes, sometimes even at a different rhythm! It takes time and practice, but eventually each hand can be taught to operate completely independently of the other.
First you start with the left hand, the chord hand. This is usually the simpler of the two. It’s the foundation of the song, too. Even though it’s boring, it’s the piece that’s going to make the song sound like a piece of music, and not just a melody being picked out.
Once you master the chord hand, the teacher will set you to learning the melody, again, independently. Finally, slowly and awkwardly, you work on getting your hands to play together. It takes time, but if you practice, you’ll smooth out, speed up and be the envy of all your friends.
It Helps To Know the Mechanics When You Play By Ear
When we look at systems in business, we can’t see the sheet music, so we’re learning by ear. We have an idea of the chords — the basic building blocks. And we may know the melody — our idealized sense of how the system should go.(We may even envy the playing of someone else who seems to have the system mastered.)
So, getting back to the idea that these projects are bigger than the 1% improvements you signed up for, first consider where you are, within the context of your business and its processes.
Are you still learning the chords? Are you developing the melody? Or are you in the process of getting the two hands working in sync? Only the last step is what people think of when they think of 1% improvements, but any stage of the process is amenable to being developed in these half hour chunks.
While it’s true that some — like developing content or working the kinks out of a piece of software — would potentially work best in a two-hour chunk, it is still possible to apply the cumulative effects ethos to these imposingly large projects. And, I would argue, that it’s quite a bit more effective, since you spend less time feeling overwhelmed and more time pushing the project forward, however small and ridiculous the increments.
While it’s true that some projects work best in a two-hour chunk, it is still possible to apply the cumulative effects ethos to these imposingly large projects.
And it’s quite a bit more effective, since you spend less time feeling overwhelmed and more time pushing the project forward, however small and ridiculous the increments.
So that’s the thing to remember: first, that you can’t improve on something that doesn’t really exist yet, and that, having decided that something should be built, you can usually break the project down to steps small enough to fit into a 1% improvement slot– thus proving that you can move forward even on the biggest projects when you are busy as f***.
Tune in next week for a discussion on workflow. Work with your rhythms, not against them.