Eliminate Single Points of Failure
The following is a response to Sebastian Marshall’s blog post: High Production, Shaky Habits.
long time listener, first time caller.
Your challenges with a productive yet erratic / uneven schedule reminded me of a phrase we use religiously at my company –“Eliminate single points of failure”. Originally learned during my four years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy, and refined as an active-duty officer, most of my operational shortcomings can be traced to ignoring this single concept. While at the academy, we purposely built schedules for young cadets that were not humanly possible to see how they responded to the stress.
Curiously, the decision didn’t distill down to “what’s more important?” but “who was I willing to piss off?”. In my case, I would rather take a tongue lashing from one of my uniform-wearing professors then spend 20 minutes with one of my vindictive upperclassmen while in the push-up position while shouting out military quotes, “Sir, war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things, the decayed and degraded state of society is much worse …” And in the following years while an officer, I used to dread the annual updating the of the unit continuity books – in fact we would be rebuked (sometimes publicly) for allowing ourselves to become a single point of failure when some task wasn’t completed while we were on leave.
Interestingly enough, that lesson was forgotten when I transitioned into small biz ownership. And I (and eventually my team and clients) began to feel the inevitable side-effects of single-points of failure … well .. failing.
So I finally asked myself the right question (plagiarizing you a bit there): What is my company’s biggest weakness?
The painful answer: me.
And the uncomfortable (but very prudent) solution: delegate or decide.
Delegate even the really important stuff, and Decide who you are willing to piss off when it doesn’t work out. Admittedly, some expensive mistakes were made by my team during this transition into a robust organization, and I sometimes would rubber-band back into doing these tasks myself only to burn out, and have re-delegate those same tasks in state of desperation instead proactive management. I also decided which clients I should fire, which friendships I would put on the back-burner, and allowed my ego to take the brunt of the upcoming blows.
Hell, that was a long ramble. Thanks for reading, and keep writing. These internal scorecards certainly keep me on my toes.
– Nate Wright –
Owner, Small Biz Triage