To paraphrase philosopher and logician Kurt Gödel, you can’t be in a system while at the same time understanding the system you’re in. In other words, you need to raise your head from time to time and see the system for what it is, whether it’s good or bad. We are normally so buried in the day-to-day scramble that we never take the time to do this. Yet, you’ll see something new every time you do.
When we’re in the thick of the woods, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, so regularly elevating above our business for an evaluative look is vital if we want to continue performing well as a team. That said, getting our leaders and managers out of the business for 90 minutes each week and 1 day each quarter doesn’t guarantee we will see ourselves clearly. There are two other important principles to consider:
- When we’re on the field, in the heat of the contest, it’s very difficult to see ourselves playing the game. We don’t always know when we are doing things that hinder our team. We have blind spots and teammates are often reluctant to report what they see. Sitting in a room together, away from the business, doesn’t mean the most impactful issues will be identified and resolved.
- The longer our team works together, thinking and doing things in a particular way, the less likely we are to see answers that lie outside our system, our way of operating. As we become “attached” to parts of our system – people and practices – we lose the objectivity to challenge the effectiveness of our system, even when we try to take an elevated, evaluative look. Our perspective becomes more and more narrow over time, keeping solutions that are just around the corner out of view.
Great teams maintain their “edge” by regularly pausing to take those elevated views of their business, humbly subjecting their thoughts and actions to beneficial challenges – questions and thoughts that keep their system, their way of operating, as simple and effective as possible. Here are three simple things any team can do to foster those beneficial challenges:
- Encourage all your people, and particularly new hires, to challenge the status quo – create an open and honest culture where all constructive challenges are welcome
- Periodically, have your team read a great business book to challenge your thinking
- Engage with an objective business coach/advisor to help your team see those solutions that may be lying just around the corner (view this brief Image One Case Study)
Whatever you do, the objective is NOT to add more complexity. It’s the exact opposite – to continually keep your system as simple and effective as possible.