Building Better Habits
How do we transform a new initiative into a habit that improves our business or life?
When I was a child I was told that if you do anything twenty-one times it becomes a habit. A simple trick! In business, an initiative like Six Sigma isn't going to work unless it becomes a habit for all employees associated with the process. Once it becomes a habit, it's followed in due course. That's when the consequences of the initiative—the improvements we expect it to bring to the business or to life—will follow.
This simple fact is often missed out because it is not obvious. Buckminister Fuller had a wonderful illustration of leverage– the trim tab. The trim tab is a small ‘rudder on the rudder' of a ship. It is only a fraction of the size of the rudder. Its function is to turn the rudder, which, then, makes it easier to turn the ship. The larger the ship, the more important is the trim tab because a large volume of water flowing around the rudder can make it difficult to turn. But what makes this trim tab such a marvelous metaphor for leverage is not it's effectiveness, but it's non-obviousness. There are high-leverage changes in human systems that are non-obvious until we understand the forces at play in those systems.
Becoming disciplined with initiatives is tough, but only until you get used to it. We all know we need to exercise for our health and happiness but most of us make the excuse of not having enough time. One day I get up in the morning and do my exercises, get tired by the afternoon, and the next day I simply forget that I made a commitment to exercise. But if I am disciplined and exercise every day for twenty-one days, by the end of that time it will have become a habit and my day won't start right unless I follow my exercise "routine".