“A bad system will beat a good person every time.” ~W. Edwards Deming
In a recent article we talked about why systems may not have worked for you in the past. (The short answer: because you weren’t doing it right.) But you’ve read that article and you have it all worked out.
So now you need a system to apply it to. But which system will you use? It seems like there are so many for any given problem. They all claim to deliver rainbows and unicorns (or sports cars on the beach if you prefer). Is there a way to determine which system is the right one for you?
Start At The End
You can’t begin looking for the right system for you until you know what results you want. Take the time necessary to consider what you need — and what you do not need. Write it down! It is too easy to be vague in your own head. Written needs (and non-needs) have a way of focusing your attentions. Do not skip the non-needs list!
Here’s an example. Let’s call our system seeker Jeff. Jeff wants a system for staying fit. He’s not a couch potato but he’s not a triathlete either. He is not interested in winning any competitions. He does not want a body with less than 8% body fat. What he does want is to be limber and strong. He wants to look good in his clothes. He wants to feel good.
So Jeff knows that a racer’s training system is not for him. Neither is a competitive bodybuilding system. He can probably write off any system that uses adjectives like crazy, insane or loco to describe itself. He can now focus on systems geared toward fitness, flexibility and health.
How much structure do you need? Notice that I didn’t ask, How much structure do you like? It’s not about pleasing yourself, it is about knowing yourself. You may hate the alarm clock but that is precisely why you need an alarm clock. It causes you to do something that may not be to your short term liking but serves your long term pleasure.
This is not the time to be self-sparing. Are you willing to do something silly? Take a paper grocery bag, cut out some eye holes and put it over your head. Now go stand in front of the mirror and look at this person. What is he really like? What are his weaknesses? Where does he need to be lead?
I’m serious about this. Especially if you truly want to see your own body for the first time, really do this exercise. If you stand naked in front of a mirror with a bag over your head, I promise you will see someone you have never met before. It may be a bit jolting but it sure is eye opening.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
It is so easy to get excited about the promise of a new system. Just make sure that you verify its claims. This doesn’t mean you have to be all cynical, it just means you don’t want to get caught up in the red and shiny parts.
Remember your lists. Having most of what you need may cause you to stop looking. But be certain: can you do without what it is missing? Or is that a fatal flaw for your purposes? It is not an indictment of a system to recognize it does not serve your purposes even if it does great for other people.
Systems usually take some time to learn and commitment to master. Make sure you have found “the one” before you make that investment of your time, money and hope.
How Much Is Enough? How Much Is Too Much?
Are you looking for a simple way to bake a cake? Then don’t be mesmerized by systems with “features” that you will never use. Don’t get bogged down in complexity that seems to broadcast capability but is overkill for your needs.
Maybe it’s not as simple as cake. Are you looking for a comprehensive way to run a successful bakery? Albert Einstein noted, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This is where your needs inventory and especially your non-needs inventory will give you a means of assessing.
Should I Go With Facts Or Feelings?
Have you ever seen a system that sure looks good on paper but you just don’t feel right about it? Such notions are worthy of examination. Shining the light of your attention on the matter may illuminate why you are discomforted. Of course the discomfort might be that it looks likely to work for you and you will therefore no longer have an excuse for failure. In that case, scroll back up and reread the “Know Thyself” section.
Your hunch may have another cause however. It may be that you recognize something that is not for you. Don’t play this off. Get comfortable or move on to the next system.
In other circumstances, the excitement may be there but the facts are just not backing up the feelings. Is it a mere lack of information? Then go and get that information. If however it is the information itself that is at odds with your positive feelings, you need to take a step back.
The opposite can also happen. If you find yourself being negative for no good reason, don’t let that block you from a good thing when you see it.
If your feelings positive or negative are starting to be insistent, stop. Take a breath. Set aside your desire to make this one work or to push it away. Put a “bag” over this particular system’s head and see it for what it really is.
Stick Or Pivot?
So you know what you are after, you know yourself, and you have examined your options thoroughly. You dealt with the data, you got emotionally present, and you made your choice. Now the rubber meets the road.
No system implementation goes without hitches. You have to learn new things. You may have to go against your nature on occasion. You may get new information or your circumstances may change. Oh no, did you make the wrong choice?
Before you decide to cut and run, remember your path to right here. Recall why you made the choices you did. Are you now making some assumptions about how easy this “should” be that are really not appropriate? Are you getting overemotional, flustered, or panicky? If so, take a step back. Go get your grocery bag again. (Who knew it would be so useful?)
Of course there are times when something is just not living up to its promise. Don’t let your investments (energy, focus, time, money) sway you to stick with something that is not going to give you the results you require. At the end of the day, that is the only measure. It all starts and ends with results. If need be, head back to the beginning and, with the new knowledge you have acquired, choose a new system that will deliver. Then work that system until you get your desired results.
“There is a system for picking systems.” click to tweet
No system can absolutely promise a result. Oh, it might offer guarantees but you don’t want your money back, you want what you paid for. But you have to jump into life. The outcome may be uncertain but the possibilities make it worthwhile. So do your homework. The right system can improve your odds considerably.
Have you picked the right system? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Phil Venditti
2 thoughts on “How to Pick the Right System for Anything”
I really liked that idea of a non-needs list. I have definitely got caught up in features that I thought were sexy but I didn’t really need.
Sometimes it’s hard to turn away “extra”. We like the idea of getting more than we needed. At end of the day, “more than I need” cannot replace what I actually need.