☁ Instant Improvement Tip ☁ November 2015
☛☛☛ Basic Fractals To Rock Your Business Life…
Sitting on a plane this week, some wave of bizarre-dom rolled in and I found myself in a discussion about fractals, strategic business development and the role of progesterone in slowing the aging process. Yep. And before your eyes glaze over and you slip into a coma – how this turns out may surprise you…
Usually I use “plane” time to smash some concepts together and get some different ideas. For some reason travelling at height softens my resistance to new thoughts. Anyway – the process is called “mashing” – and it is a bit like when musicians “mash” 2 or 3 different songs to make a new one…
So – there I was manically shuffling my index cards and making notes in my ideas books, and I notice the woman next me is kind of doing the same thing. That is different – hardly ever happens.
Conversation ensues and for some reason my mission of ‘making complex things simple to follow’ comes up while talking about her corporate strategic planning process. She says “I hated physics at school and uni – fractals are wasted on me…”
A red flag to a bull perhaps – but fractals are intrinsically useful, and are about maths!
One way to understand part of fractals is that part of it is about positive feedback loops, that feed back on the new versions, over and over. Eyes glazed over!
So – a long time ago, there was a slight indentation in some land in Nevada. Because of the indentation, when it rained water first sat in the indentation and then ran a little. The flow of the water caused the indentation to become a little deeper (positive feedback) – and because it was a little deeper, MORE water came into this gully. This extra water made the little gully deeper again – making it more attractive for more water to enter with the next rain. That is a positive feedback loop. And each rainfall is called an “iteration”.
A fractal is simply a process that continually works again and again ON it’s output. In this example the increasingly deeper gully – eventually became the Grand Canyon.
Oh – that kind of makes sense, she says. Cool.
And then conversation moves to Deming ( you know – the statistician/consultant who helped Japan become a manufacturing superpower). It moved to Deming because we spoke of processes and systems (fractal!), and Deming was HUGE on ensuring that the FIRST parts of the processes were correctly set up (to three levels deep).
Deming maintained that up to 85% of the value generated in a process was determined by the accurate and decisive planning of the first 15% of the process (again 3 levels deep).
For the Grand Canyon – right at the very beginning – the slope of the ground had to be right or there would be no positive feedback to feed the fractal. If the slope was not set up properly – there would be no Grand Canyon like the current one.
This led to discussion about the general confusion in the world about the “missions, visions, values and so on” that must exist BEFORE an organization can generate an effective strategic plan. Unless you know the purpose of a system – and what it will >>ideally<< produce – you cannot design the drive mechanisms that will create those outcomes.
In the corporate world the leaders often do not even have a common vocabulary – so they do not even have the same definitions of visions and mission statement.
As part of this discussion the term BHAG rose – which was new to her – but possibly might be the key to getting a far better result from her “Strategy Session” the next day.
A BHAG is a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. The term was coined by Jim Collins – and in my planning process, the BHAG is a goal that would indicate HUGE levels of success in a timeframe 10 to 20 years out. From your BHAG, you can then more effectively generate 3 to 5 year milestones, strategies, focus points and key numbers. Then from your 3 -5 year clarity – you can complete your 1 year program of priorities. And down the chain to your Quarterly priorities, key numbers and focus.
And only then can you generate weekly and daily schedules for each division or department or person that can guide them congruently and with inherent accountability.
This “plane” discussion happened only in a 40 minute period as we commuted from Mackay to Townsville – it was just a little dense and condensed!
And how did we get to progesterone?
Simple. We both had backgrounds in both science and business. And the overlay of science (fractals, processes, positive feedback loops) made the insights to business far more simply explainable. Our bodies are the result of the interaction of dozens of different systems – and the outcome is strongly affected by the environment the systems operate in. Same as in business – which is why simple things like lean manufacturing and 5S can radically transform both the appearance of a business and its success levels.
Our bodies (both male and female) essentially have a balance of many different hormones. Two of the most misunderstood are Estrogen and Progesterone. Despite what you likely believe – these are not just “sex” hormones. Male and female require both of them, and importantly they are ANTAGONISTIC. This means they cancel out each others effects.
As we age, both male and female produce LESS progesterone. This means we become ESTROGEN DOMINANT. In men this means that not only do we get the inflammatory effects of too much estrogen (swelling, autoimmune disease), but we also get “man-boobs”. PLUS – the excess estrogen stuffs up our also decreasing supply of testosterone – making us less manly!
In women, the estrogen dominance can have a lot of symptoms from menopausal to a wide variety of other inflammatory disease.
I mention this here because this post is about systems. If a variable is wrong at the beginning of a process – it has massive effects on the outcomes. And the outcomes then change the environment to allow the error to iterate repeatedly until all other systems must adapt to try to keep us (or our businesses) alive.
In our bodies, an estrogen dominance will result in us getting fat, our blood pressure goes up, our arteries get clogged, our limbs swelling, our brains become foggy, our energy systems function less efficiently which changes our chemical systems which feedback and affect our other hormones. If we try to lose weight – we are trying to make alterations DOWNSTREAM of the unbalanced variable. We can take blood pressure tablets – but we are DOWNSTREAM again.
In our businesses we can do some TV adverts to try to overcome falling sales, or renew our stationery and signage, or get some sales training or increase our adwords spending. BUT – if the unbalanced variable is in your vision and mission statement not matching your environment – then all those changes are also DOWNSTREAM.
In essence, things that are at the beginning of a process that iterates are the difference between a little creek and the Grand Canyon.
I really do enjoy science and business MASH-UPs!!
Ps if you believe you have estrogen dominance – there are steps you can take. One is to reduce your own production of estrogen – which is affected by your diet. There other is to take supplemental progesterone. This is for both men and women. There is strong evidence that progesterone shortage in men may be a major factor in the epidemic of prostate misery that is sweeping the world. Progesterone is cheap as it is not protected by patents – and can be bought over the counter as a skin cream. Be sure to get your levels checked before you do anything )- just as you would review your business before making radical changes.) When you change an environmental variable it has more fractal power!
Townsville based James Hooper: The term “rainmaker” is becoming regularly used in business context as someone whose role is to ‘make rain’ or ‘create growth’ in your business. In some senses the term ‘business coach’ is limiting as it is primarily about optimizing the effectiveness of the owner/operator. Sometimes the leverage is in the business systems rather than in the operator – and focus on that produces the preferred outcomes.
Business is a game, a puzzle, a tool to get you what you want in life. Call me for a second opinion (other than yours) on how to make your business give you what you want it to.