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I Forge Iron

Strengthening your weakest link

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“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe” -Muhammed Ali

There are many aspects of estimating/business/management that lend themselves to a pattern, process, or routine.  The focus on consistency is largely driven by an assumption that diligent repetition will cause success.  In this context, it’s understandable that so many professionals seek to improve their process throughput.  This perspective may conceal opportunities to make small changes with large benefits.

Survival manuals recommend picking a point in the distance and walking towards it.  This is because minor differences in our bodies can result in one stride being longer than the other resulting in a tendency to walk in circles.  This is especially common in situations where featureless expanses must be traversed.  By focusing on a specific point, or feature, we can make minor corrections to arrive at our destination. 

Many readers will reach this point thinking about process-oriented solutions like error checks, and scope reviews.

Consider walking through a featureless expanse, focusing on your selected destination.  There’s plenty of time to observe and think as you walk.  You notice your progress drifting to one side, and correct course.  Now you think about why you’re drifting.  Before long, you start experimenting with changes in posture, or compensating efforts to stop drifting.  This effort to equalize your stride will eventually reveal your weakest link.   Continued effort will strengthen your weakest link. 

It’s here that we can be surprised by how much harder it feels to strengthen the weakest link, than it felt to compensate for it.  It often requires a greater effort to correct a limp, than to continue limping. 

When time is of the essence and there’s much to be done, will you stop to fix your stride, or learn to limp faster?

A lot of smart people would say it depends on how much time you’ve got.   This overlooks a very obvious possibility.

What if there’s a pebble in your shoe?

Obviously, you’d take a moment to remove the pebble so you could be on your way unimpeded.

Astute readers might be expecting me to provide a list of “pebbles”.  Unfortunately, that’s missing the larger point.

See once you find a “pebble”, you’ll know exactly what to do.  The bigger problem, the true weakest link, is investing too much into process-oriented corrections, rather than looking for simple reasons why we drift from where we want to be. 

This shift in perspective reveals a whole lot of “pebbles”.  Once they’re gone, all the compensatory hitches in your stride become obvious.  Every improvement you make reduces your work and increases your output.   

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