At home, from time to time, my family and I will wake up to a string of black ants feverishly dismantling a morsel of food left out on the dining room table overnight. My wife will cry, “We have ants!!” And this leads to me running around with spray bottles and paper towels desperately working to restore our clean environment as urgently as possible.
While paper towels and spray, ant traps, or even an exterminator will remove the ants (and also invite toxins in our home), the ants always come back.
Sure, we can fix our ant problem today, but if we continue to leave out crumbs for them to dine on, they will come back. There’s probably a billion of them out there (where do they all come from??).
In this situation, the ants are the “problem” that keeps coming back because we don’t address the larger issue (or “system”) of absentmindedly leaving out crumbs overnight.
If instead, we just got into the habit of cleaning all surfaces in the kitchen and dining room before we go to bed, there will be no string of black ants to greet us in the morning.
Address the system—clean all surfaces—eliminate the problem—no ants.
So, how does this concept apply to business?
“Ants” come in many forms.
It could be the copy that always requires the same edits. Will it ever just be right the first time?
It could be the team member who always produces at minimum expectations. Will they ever change?
It could be the business line that has never quite taken off. Will it ever?
There are probably a thousand others.
So, where are you spending your time on problems, when if you instead addressed the system, the problems would disappear?