Saturday, March 17, 2012
Stop B*tching About Local Optimizations
Unless you can take a single action and reinvent the whole effing universe instantly then EVERYTHING you do is a local optimization!
Here's another thing to chew on…even if we draw the boundaries of the system to just the department level, that is still (in most enterprises) a whole lot of people, interactions and influences. In order to improve a system you should first understand it. Problem is, by the time you understand the system well enough to change it, the system itself has likely changed rendering all your changes useless or non-optimal and much of your time wasted. Of course this issue explodes exponentially for each step towards a bigger system you take.
So, what are we to do? I suggest this fun little metaphor:
Act like a good Proctologist; consider the (w)hole, but treat the individuals ;)
As a change agent, whether an internal employee or an external consultant, you often have to play the cards you're dealt (or fold). You should definitely spend some initial time trying to consider as much as the system as you can. In fact, this should be something you are always doing at some level. More importantly though is to not let this paralyze you. You'll often get more data from attempting a safe-to-fail change than you will from simply sitting back trying to sense the system. Also, don't think too linearly. You can likely be influencing multiple things simultaneously.
In fact, one approach is to intentionally over optimize a local optimization. This will often make apparent to management (or even to you) where the true bottle neck in the system is. We shouldn't worry so much about doing the wrong things righter, but we should be aware that that may be the case and always work to be doing the right things.
In the end, showing improvement and building momentum can lead to exciting changes. In fairness, it can also come crashing to the ground if the right kinds of changes aren't made at some point, but this should not deter anyone who thinks something can be made better from trying to do so and it certainly should not be a reason to do nothing!
Posted by Matt Barcomb at 4:56 PM