In business we often form multilevel systems to manage the operations of the business. A sales person at a retail store is responsible for doing the work, in this case selling the product. They spend all of their time trying to get customers to buy the products that the business sells.
A level above the sales person is the store manager. They oversee multiple sales people to make sure that they address underperforming sales people and coach them up. They make sure that the team is performing at an optimal level and doing what they can to motivate employees and teach them how to be successful at doing the job.
With these two levels it is easy to see that there are multiple sales people and they are spending all of their time working to sell. The manager can’t spend all of his or her time selling because they have other duties. They have to get their whole team to perform optimally. If they avoid that responsibility and say that they are just going to do the work, then they lose out on the benefit of being able to coach up their other sales people. Their ability to grow the business becomes very limited to what they can sell themselves.
Above the store manager is the regional manager. They are responsible for multiple stores. They can’t go into every store and do all of the work themselves. They have to rely on the sales people to sell, the store managers to oversee the sales people and work to help them be successful. Then the regional manager focuses on helping the store managers become successful. They don’t go in and do the store managers job for them, they have to find a way to assist them in their duties.
One of the ways that we can manage all of this complexity is by properly designed systems. We create a sales process that results in successful sales much of the time. Then we train our sales people on this process.
If a sales person is struggling we simply work with them on the process to make sure they know how the process works. We can measure various aspects of the process to see how well they are working the process.
We can measure the number of leads that come in. We can measure the appointments set. We can measure the time it takes from initial contact until to closing or from the first email inquisition to the time when a sales person gets back to them.
The point is that we can start to use numbers to show us patterns. The patterns then help us understand where the sales person should focus in order to see the most improvement.
This allows them to manage multiple sales people at one time and give them all quality feedback and assistance to succeed.
The regional manager can employ the same strategy of looking at the data behind a store to see patterns. They can start to oversee the process from a higher level but still understand what is going on within that store.
This makes sense when someone moves up in an organization from sales person to store manager to regional manager because they often see what it takes to be successful at each level and then apply that insight to coaching up their subordinates.
But many individuals fail when they get moved up to higher levels. The sales person who outperforms and is then tasked with managing a team struggles because their reflex is to just jump in and do it. They take on the mindset that, “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”
Many entrepreneurs fall into this trap. They can’t continue to grow their business because they get stuck having to do it all themselves. They never create a process that can be replicated and passed to someone else.
The other problem is that this model is overly simplistic. When someone goes from sales person to store manager, he or she inherits other duties beyond selling or managing the sales folks. They now have much more they have to manage.
They suddenly have to manage other areas where they are not nearly as versed. This creates a difficult situation where they can’t just coach someone up on the process because they themselves don’t actually know the process.
Someone who can do a good job staying at the high level and still able to motivate others to improve tend to do a good job regardless of their leadership role. They know when to jump into the specifics to better understand the process and when to probe their staff for more insight.
So now that we have discussed these multilevel systems in a basic business scenario, how can we use them in our personal lives to improve?
One way is to create routines or habits and then use data to monitor those routines and habits. We can create a process of exercising in the morning and then monitor our weight each day.
We can create a budget and monitor it monthly to see where we overspend and where we appropriately designate our funds. We can look for trends and patterns and respond by changing the specific habits we created around spending money.
So the reason I refer to this type of improvement as the systems and habits approach is because we aren’t just creating a few positive habits. We are actually creating multilevel systems that manage our life in a way where we have control over the direction we head.
These systems allow us to create new behaviors and then form patterns and structures to guide us. We can then work to grow and improve the systems over time so we are gradually improving. The systems are just as important as the habits we create. These multilevel systems are simply managing the habits providing confidence that we have the right habits and are moving in the right direction.