Disciplines of Effectiveness: Assess The Situation

Disciplines of Effectiveness: Assess The Situation

Alignment is about understanding your life priorities, and then intentionally creating, to whatever degree you can, a daily agenda that works toward those priorities. Understand your reality, your future goal, and take steps to move daily toward those goals. Alignment is an important task and involves creating our environments instead of letting our environments create us.

How’d your homework go? How did you need to change your daily schedule to reflect your priorities and your desires?

This week we look at a timely Discipline of Effectiveness. It’s not what I would consider the second discipline, but one that I think is important, and I believe is a necessary building block: Assessing or Get Unstuck.

Everyone gets stuck. Some people understand that there is a process to getting unstuck while others just live there. I feel like I’m a master at getting unstuck. Many times it feels like I go from challenge to challenge with little time to think between. Sometimes I create my own challenges and I know better, and sometimes circumstances are created outside of my control.

Feeling stuck is natural. I offer that because some people think of being stuck as a bad thing. It’s not inherently bad to feel stuck. Feeling like you’re stuck can arise because something isn’t working – like a relationship or a business plan. But why? Have you outgrown your capacity or the capacity of those around you? Has your personal growth outpaced your ability to manage the growth? Are you learning something new – feeling like you’re stuck, but really just working it through? There are potentially good things that may be underlying your feeling of stuck.

Here’s what you need to know, though: you’re never truly stuck. You’re only stuck when you choose to not change your circumstances.

Maybe you’ve heard of the raccoon trap? A trap with an opening big enough to fit a hand through, at the bottom of which is food. The raccoon can fit its hand through on the way in, but when it grabs the food, the hand formed in a fist is too large to pull back through the opening. The raccoon is stuck.

You’re not a raccoon. Many times you’ll find that the reason you’re stuck is because you’re holding on to something that you shouldn’t be. Like the raccoon, you must be willing to drop what is in your hand.

Or, perhaps you’re not acting on the things you know you should do. Assess why. What are you waiting for? Are you holding onto the past because you value something in it? Are you fearful of the future?

You have the power, in nearly every circumstance, to do something about being stuck. Make an intentional choice, and GO!

Feeling stuck is overwhelming. You need to Assess the Situation. The best way I’ve found to be less overwhelmed is to write everything down. You need to be great at assessing to be great at getting unstuck. Here’s a quick framework I use for regularly assessing. On a BIG sheet of paper make four quadrants with the following titles. For each, write down a list related to whatever it is you’re thinking about.

What is working
What is stuck
What I didn’t expect (surprise!)
What should be cut

I’ve found this segmentation to work better than just writing a big list. Lists have a tendency to lump everything together, which I find necessary to separate later. Plus, you probably won’t think of what’s really going right until you see a big blank space for it.

Cut the dead weight. Understanding what’s working as well as what’s stuck can help you draw a distinction between what you should be doing more of, and what should be cut. A dead limb on a tree is a hazard. Even healthy branches are sometimes trimmed for the health of the whole tree. Trimming can eliminate the hazard, and eliminating unnecessary branches can help the tree direct energy to areas that have the best long-term growth.

You may be in a dead-end sort of stuck. To get out, you may need to do something massively different. During prohibition (1920-1933) the Anheuser-Busch brewery couldn’t brew beer. Instead, they made other things to keep the doors open – even ice cream. They also sold yeast and continued to do so until the 1990s, nearly sixty years. Dead end? Quick thinking with smart people, and you can do anything.

You may be in a growth sort of stuck. There are two varieties of this – stuck because you’re doing something good, but not great, and stuck because you have outgrown your environment. Maybe you’re expending energy in an area that is good, but you could be great, and you feel stuck. That takes guts – anyone can stop doing something that’s not working. It takes a special kind of strength to be able to say “no” to something that is working.

Jim Collins talks about the FlyWheel Effect in his book Good to Great. Having studied over 1200 companies, Jim talks about how greatness happens by doing the right things consistently over time – like a huge flywheel. Greatness does not usually happen in an overnight flash, or a new “change” program. You may be feeling stuck because you think that the slow going thing isn’t working, and you keep darting about trying to start something new.

Consider what is working. Is it worth the effort to continue to do the things that are stuck? What would happen if you just doubled your efforts on what was already working?

You’ll also find things you didn’t expect – surprises that are your learning opportunities. These are great to know because it encourages you that you are continuing to learn. If you’re not being surprised much, you’re probably also not curious, or being challenged. You should take that as an indicator that you’re capable of more. Get on with it.

So much more I could say, and sometimes I do.

Learn to Assess. It will help you get unstuck. For those who really want to succeed, make this assessment framework part of your quarterly routine. That’s right – sit down every few months to think about how you can stay on track.

How can we help you better?