It’s a never-ending quest, this pursuit of achievement. The striving to do more, be more. There’s a pervasive sense of unease when you feel like you’re not moving things forward in your work fast enough, or in your life in general.
Stasis is the basis for profound discomfort.
We’re not built to not progress as best we can. But we often miss an important truth in our desire to accomplish, which I discuss in my new bestselling book, Leading from the Middle: A Playbook for Managers to Influence Up, Down, and Across the Organization.
It’s known as the Theory of Constraints, and it states that the performance of any system is held back by constraints, or bottlenecks, that restrict output. In other words, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, its limiting factor. These constraints or limiting factors are the biggest things holding your business back, or you back.
And the thing is, these constraints restrict output whether you acknowledge them or not. Too few put a concerted effort into identifying their hidden constraints, let alone addressing them as a fast route to greater achievement.
Don’t miss the opportunity – in your work or in your life. Working on just your biggest constraint will still have the biggest impact.
You can identify that constraint by conducting what’s known as a Why-Why-Why analysis. I first learned about this analysis from product supply experts that work in huge manufacturing plants. They use it to help determine bottlenecks that might be slowing down production on the line, but it’s a tool with far broader use.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Start with a problem that’s holding you back from achieving your goals. In our first example, let’s say you’re facing poor online sales. This problem, like many, may be glaringly obvious, but the constraint driving the problem, most often is not. So, you dig, one layer at a time, by continually asking, “Why?”
Why are you achieving poor online sales? You discover it’s because you’re not getting enough traffic to your website.
Well, it’s because your online advertising isn’t generating enough clicks.
Well, that’s because you don’t understand your target audience well enough to get them interested with a message worth clicking on.
Now you know what to do. You get the idea. You keep asking “Why?” until you’ve uncovered the true constraint or a clear path of action that solves the problem.
Now let’s use this simple analytical tool within the context of a problem holding you back from generally being happy in life. Let’s say it’s because you’re in a job where you don’t feel valued and valuable, and that sense is spilling over into your life. OK, why are you still in that job? Perhaps it’s because you feel like it’s too risky to pursue the line of work that really lights you up.
Why do you believe it’s too risky?
Well, because you’re not sure if you’re good enough to land a job in that field or are good enough to “make it” over the long haul.
Why do you believe that?
Because of a specific set of assumptions you’re clinging to.
Therein lies the culprit. Unhelpful assumptions are something you absolutely can do something about. You see where I’m going with this.
The point is, pinpoint. With the Theory of Constraints in mind, dig deep, one why at a time, to nail down what’s really holding you back. Then, unleash yourself.
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