Last week we talked about focusing on taking action in your business. And the information overload and distractions that keep you from doing it.
Now assuming that you’ve unplugged a few of your electronic distractions, stopped splashing around in that ocean of information and are ready to buckle down and get busy, we come to an important question…
What actions should you be focusing on? What actions should you be taking to give you the biggest strategic bang for your buck?
I want to give you a little help with that today in the form of a map.
And believe me…
You Need A Map – And Here’s Why…
Ask a lot of struggling entrepreneurs where they’re focused during the day and they’ll say “on their goals”. Or what they believe they need to do to achieve their goals.
But your “goals” are not a place to focus.
You see, your business is a system.
And a system is composed of a number of interdependent parts or processes.
When all of the component parts of your system are working optimally, you should be getting optimal results.
But if just one element of the system starts breaking down, it throws the whole system off. Only one small glitch can compromise your entire business.
Think of a chain with 50 links. If 49 of those links can hold 500 pounds, but one link can only hold 100 pounds, how much can your chain hold? You got it… 100 pounds.
It’s a cliche but it’s true… a chain really is only as strong as its weakest link.
Now if you go to work fixing that problem by increasing the strength of all 50 links by 100 pounds, then how much will your chain hold? That’s right… 200 pounds. All that work and still not optimal.
So what’s the fastest way to get your chain to hold up to a full 500 pounds?
By focusing your all energies on fixing the weakest link.
Your business will only ever be as successful as the weakest process in your system. So to get the maximum leverage – the biggest results for the minimum effort – you want to target that weakest process.
But that begs another question…
How do you find that weakest link?
That’s the challenge. Discovering the real cause of what’s holding you back. So I’m going to give you a little exercise to do that.
It’s an uber-simplified – yet challenging – exercise that will that will help you uncover your weakest links. Your biggest sticking points that – if addressed and fixed – will give you that biggest bang for your leverage buck.
So get out a big sheet of paper and let’s get to work!
Step 1. Start With Your Goal…
The first thing you need to do is define your goal.
But here’s the thing about defining your goal – and the spot most entrepreneurs get tripped up… it has to be clear and precise.
Stating your goal as “having a successful business” isn’t very precise.
“Owning a million dollar a year business” is better.
And “owning a million dollar a year business where I only work 4 days a week” is better still.
“Owning a million dollar a year info-product business where I only work 4 days a week” even better!
You get the idea. The more clear and precise you are in describing your goal, 1) the more apt you are to achieve it and 2) the more effective the rest of this exercise will be.
So start at the top of your paper and write down your goal…
Step 2. List All The Factors Your Goal Requires…
Underneath your goal, you want to list all the things that are necessary to achieve your goal. The things that – if they were there – would automatically make your goal a reality. In Theory of Constraints terminology these are called your “Critical Success Factors”.
List them out whether they already exist or not.
- List out the products you need.
- What you’d need to produce those products.
- The marketing you’d need.
- The customers you’d need.
- The prices you need to charge.
- The revenue you’d need to generate and so on.
Your map should start looking something like this…
Step 3. Define Your Obstacles…
Now below your success factors, you want to list out the main obstacles that stand in the way of your having those necessary success factors.
Define the conditions that actually exist that prevent your critical success factors from being real.
A couple things to keep in mind here. Each success factor can have multiple obstacles standing in its way.
And not only that, there can also be one obstacle blocking multiple success factors.
List out the obstacles and draw lines to map them back to the success factors they’re blocking.
Just give it some thought and see how it turns out.
Step 4. Determine Each Obstacle’s Logical Causes…
Now this is where the exercise gets exciting…
Think about all the causes that are behind the obstacles you listed in Step 3. All the reasons you don’t have all your success factors already. Map those causes back to the obstacles they create.
And pay close attention because – like your obstacles – single causes can underlie multiple obstacles.
Then… once you’ve figured out the causes to your obstacles, go a level deeper and begin to look for the causes of the causes.
And then go a level deeper again and look for the the cause of the cause of the cause…
Here’s what you should start to see…
The deeper you go, the more overlap you’ll begin to see between the causes. One cause will be at the heart of multiple causes a level above it.
Keep doing this until you get down to just one or two (or maybe three or four) root causes
So, for example, one of your top level causes might be, “I don’t have enough time.”
And below that, you might discover that is being caused by…
- “I do too much unnecessary work.”
- “I have too many projects going on.”
- “I’m not skilled enough to work fast.”
And digging to a deeper level of cause, you might discover that all three of those are caused by, “I don’t prioritize / plan effectively”.
Keep working and your map will start looking like this as it gets filled out…
Once you get to the bottom of your map…
Congratulations! You’re On Your Way!
You’ll have uncovered the one or two or three key causes that are slowing your progress or keeping you stuck. And in all likelihood, it’ll be something you never thought of before.
If you focus on taking action on these root causes, you’ll be multiplying your results exponentially. You’ll save time and expend less energy. And you’ll get the biggest result for the minimum amount of effort.
That kind of leverage is, after all, what you’re after.
Just remember, this is a super-simplified version of a much more involved exercise. (There’s no way I could go through it in detail here.) But if you do it diligently, it will uncover your sticking points. Some you may have never considered. It’ll point you in the direction of what you should be working on.
Naturally the more complex your business is, the more variables will come into play and the more challenging this exercise will be.
But spend some time working on this and see what you come up with that you didn’t see before.