Beware the Shadow Directive

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This is a danger when you have too many priorities. It happens when the leaders believe and communicate that everything is important.

Because they create so many goals, people know that it’s simply impossible to reach them all at once, so they do one of two things:

  1. Nothing – All those rules can’t be enforced, so why change behaviors?
  2. Follow the Shadow Directive – They realize that while the leaders say one thing, workers are being evaluated on something else that determines their future. Examples include:
  • Do whatever is on fire
  • Please my manager
  • Do whatever makes us money
  • Work long hours (even if not productive)
  • Keep head down and stay out of trouble

The alternative is the Prime Directive.

What’s the one or two big things that will move the needle on everything else?

The Real Purpose of Your To-Do List

Productivity

You think it’s to Get Stuff Done, right? Wrong. That’s actually a by-product of a well-done system. 

I’ve had to learn this the hard way, so hear me out…

First, basic systems theory states that the purpose of a system is not the design of a system. The purpose of a system is determined by its actual use and results. 

The result of a to-do list is not actually getting things done because sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t (am I right?)… BUT what is guaranteed from a well-structured system is a CLEAR VIEW OF THE TRUTH. 

That means, a clear view of:

**What’s actually getting done.

**What’s getting stuck

**What you’re waiting on from other people

**What is getting neglected. 

**What lingers for weeks and months

A great system shows you the truth in a fast snapshot. And then it’s your choice what you do with that truth. 

Oddly, the result is peace, because it all becomes conscious. There’s no more “I forgot” no more “They never got back to me.” No more “What the heck did I even do this week?” 

Do you have a system? “All change starts with the truth.” – Dan Sullivan

Was it Boeing’s technology that failed, or the culture?

Great cultures

Robots don’t make planes (yet). People do. And when Boeing opened up a new plant, in a new state, the demand to meet deadlines was prioritized over procedures and standards. It’s all well-covered in a podcast by the New York Times.  It’s amazing how it can take decades to build a reputation, and only moments to destroy it. Make values and principles the standard, over numbers and deadlines.

Should we actively go for failure?

Great cultures

There’s a lot of talk about failure these days.

It’s such a strange word because no one actually wants to fail. I just experienced it this weekend. I found a new group of guys to play soccer, and man they were on a totally different level. I couldn’t keep up. Not only that, I let down my team when we lost because of a few plays I missed. I haven’t had that feeling since grade school – going home knowing I lost it for the team. It was so humbling.

But… the captain was able to show me a lot of what I was doing wrong and how to improve it.

There’s a lot of talk about failing in company culture these days. The only cultures that can sustain it are the ones that make it safe, share stories about failure and sometimes even “incentivize” it by creating funds for it in the form of hackathons or 20% time to innovate. Most importantly, they learn.

But here’s another way to think of it…

Elon Musk started his rocket company with a belief that they are very likely to fail, and yet, they did it anyway. Why? Because they’re inspired, and he said that even if they fail it will still move the industry forward.

Here’s a great test for if something is still worth it, even at the risk of failure.

1. If you know it will fail, is it still worth the journey?
2. If you know it will be 3x the amount of work you think it will be, is it still worth it?

If you say yes to these, it won’t matter if the (project, venture, product, company) fails. And you’ll most likely have a great story.