Thinking through principles

I have lots of experience in auditing businesses, ensuring employees follow the processes, finding gaps and fixing them. The one thing that I found interesting and crucial for the organization to work at the highest efficiency level is for employees to understand WHY they should follow the process. What is the reason behind something happens?

If they missed this part, they would blindly follow the procedure, from A to Z, sometimes causing more harm than good. The reason why this is happening is that they followed the procedure and did not see the bigger picture of how that process connects with other elements of the business. It would create silo-mentality and lead to limiting their fullest potential because they did not think in "what's the principle behind this process/procedure?" My training sessions on any SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), policies and processes would ALWAYS start from explaining WHY we need to follow it and WHY the process is set up the way it is set up. I would train on the SPIRIT of the process, the principles behind it. Once everyone understood it and was on board, I would move to teach the actual steps of the procedure. The steps can change. The circumstances of HOW we do things can change. But the reasons WHY we do things are (usually) fixed. 

I am bringing this up because when you're running your business, you need to understand the principles that will make your business operate on the highest level BEFORE you decide on the procedures and the tactics. 

For example, if you focus solely on the process of "my business needs a funnel", you will focus on finding "the best funnel" (no such thing, btw). You will start focusing on the messenger bots, on the SMS marketing, on networking and BNI meetings. All that CAN be a great tactic, but it will make you spend your energy, time, effort and money on one silo and not on the big picture of what you need in your business.

But, if you identify the main principles/spirit of how you want to operate your business, what are your operations' guiding principles, you will start making better decisions. 

For example, if one of your principles is that you should focus on what brings your business the highest margin (all things considered, money made, time spent, the effort to make the sale, etc.), your perspective on your business will change as well. You will start looking at your business from a strategic perspective and not from a tactical perspective. 

You can still find the most relevant tactical solutions for your business, BUT those solutions will support your bigger picture. It is easy to go down the rabbit hole of tactics, tools and shiny objects that prevent us from working on what's truly important in the business. 

Strategic thinking is just one of the benefits of looking at your business from a principles perspective. 

Another one is this approach will help you make better decisions and prevent problems before they happen. You should always focus on preventing vs fixing. An upstream decision-making process is perfectly explained by Dan Heath (Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen.). Long story short, imagine camping with a friend by a stream in the woods. All of a sudden, you see kids drowning in the stream. Your natural reaction is to jump in and save those kids. As you pull one kid out, another comes down the stream. This situation keeps on repeating, kid after kid drowning in the water. When assessing the situation at hand, you could conclude that you need to find better ways to save those drowning. But as Dan writes in his book:" Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of the water, seeming to leave you alone. 'Where are you going?' You demand. Your friend answers, 'I'm going upstream to tackle the guy who's throwing all these kids in the water.' A perfect example of fixing the upstream problem. Without that guy throwing kids to the water, you don't need to find solutions on how to save them down the stream.

That brings us to another benefit of the principles thinking approach - making decisions that save you from making hundreds of unnecessary choices. One decision, to "tackle the guy who's throwing all these kids in the water", saves your energy from fixing the downstream problem and making downstream decisions. 

Another benefit of this approach is that when you think through principles, you not only focus on what's important but also simplify things in your business. You tackle one thing, focus on one thing that moves the needle, spend time on fixing one thing. 

Focusing on the tactical part of your business takes more time and effort than focusing on what really is the upstream problem. Concentrating on the downstream problem creates chaos, confusion and overwhelms. 


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