The Butterfly Effect
According to Wikipedia, in chaos theory the term butterfly effect refers to the idea “that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of a system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.”
The important thing is to know WHEN and HOW to “flap.” Let me explain!
Every business owner and manager has seen the effect of one system, or the lack of good systems, impacting the company’s product and/or service.
Just last week, I was onsite at the facility of one of my favorite clients who was hosting representatives from another company, based in California. The five of us sat at a conference table with a couple of laptops and a projection screen, brainstorming and mapping a process that causes chaos in the client’s industry.
We spent two days developing a Master Control Checklist for that industry. It became more than clear to the participants how one step in the process affects many other systems, processes and people.
Trying to write a step-by-step quality control checklist—and anticipate the many variables that may be encountered in order to minimize the negative effects on the final outcome—can be tedious and grueling work. However, the results are amazing and rewarding. When you finally see the power of your systems at work, and the money that can be saved by reducing chaos and waste, you will never be the same again.
During the second day of developing this system, we took a break at one point and somehow got on the subject of entrepreneurs—their good and bad characteristics. It seems that we entrepreneurs are notorious for not finishing what we’ve started before moving on to chasing the next big idea.
My client—yep, a true entrepreneur—was talking enthusiastically about some new opportunities he had discovered, when midstream he shot me a look and his hands began working as if to grasp invisible flying things in mid-air.
“Here’s a blue one,” he said, “and here’s a red one—oh, there’s a yellow one.”
I was becoming concerned that two days of concentrating on systems had caused him some kind of brain trauma, when he laughed and said, “I’m an entrepreneur—I’m chasing butterflies.”
The importance of what he said was not lost on me OR my client.
Over the past couple of years, this client and I have been working together to systemize his company. He’s learned, as I finally had too, that it’s normal for an entrepreneur to see opportunity around every corner. But as business owners and managers, we need to focus on one “butterfly” at a time, rather than chasing and potentially getting bogged down in every new idea.
When we do have a new idea (say for a marketing effort, or even a whole other business), we must learn to write it down on our list—our “butterfly collection”—and pull it out and dissect it when it’s the RIGHT time to implement it, systematically.
Remember, if the flap of a butterfly wing might lead to a full-blown tornado, too much “flapping” around in your business might just lead to chaos.
Stay the course!
Have I mentioned? Great systems work!