User error

I had lunch with a friend recently, and given the gridlock in Washington we had a conversation about politics.

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Regardless of how we each felt, I made an observation: Perhaps what’s challenging us in Washington is that the framework of our government is not designed for optimal outcomes.

Rightfully so, my friend challenged me, and as I thought about it some more I shifted my thinking to agree with her. In doing so, I also realized how much the thinking around frameworks for our government aligns with much of what I observe in business.

Let me explain.

In business, we commonly use things like metrics, KPIs, and more to inform us of the health of our business. We specifically use frameworks to operate, help organize ourselves, and minimize distractions - to keep things as objective as possible in the face of constant and unpredictable change. With that mindset and in the business context frameworks are generally effective.

And that’s the point about frameworks - they can be neutral, and often serve as a foundation for how we operate. While many frameworks might be rooted in research or experience, what’s different about each might not be the framework itself, but instead, the people who use it.

As an example, I work with a number of clients who use the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which is brought to life in a book called Traction. It’s an effective operating system for a number of reasons and provides tools and frameworks such as how to tie core values into the essence of your business; how to run meetings; how to think about your organization from an accountability perspective -- all of which are fundamental. What I’ve observed from companies who implement EOS is that its effectiveness depends mostly on the “who” -- who is implementing.

Some organizations are effective at implementing the system and others less so. And when implementation is challenging, it’s easy and natural to target and blame the framework. But the reality is that it’s the input - the users/operators - and the execution that usually makes the difference.

So with the focus on the who, it brings us to the idea that instead of blaming the framework, operating system, or tool, we need to consider the user...or user error.

As a competitive tennis player, I observed (too many times) a player smash his or her racquet because she or he was upset about losing a point. Or the outcome of a match. Almost as if the player was blaming the equipment.

That’s the case with business, too. There are factors out of our control that cannot be planned for. And we have to be aware of own vulnerabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and our behaviors to see how those inputs are affecting how we operate. And that’s where the who really matters.

Which brings us to why I do what I do. I do what I do because we all have our own set of challenges. And it’s easy to place blame on something else as the target or reason for our challenges. And in some cases, it’s certainly true.

But whether it is a framework for your organization or a framework for yourself, understanding how you're operating, showing up and exhibiting behavior is what’s going to make the framework, your team, and your company succeed.

You - the who - can really be the difference.

Brian Alvo