Edwards Deming, an American statistician, argued every process in business is a system. When something goes wrong it is either due to the system failing (systemic) or due to an outside cause (exceptional). An exceptional problem treated as systemic will probably upset the entire system. Where a systemic problem treated as exceptional the cause is unlikely to be found.
Life is a system
I first learned about Deming’s work about 30 years ago, since that time I’ve discovered he was not only right about business (he personally helped Japanese manufacturers gain world domination). His theory also applies to every aspect of life that I can think of. Your life is a delicate ecosystem created through the interweaving of experiences; up bringing, genetics, desires, relationships and environment. Deming argues, to manage a system it must be statistically measured to determine the norms and the standard deviations. You can then determine whether a problem is systemic or exceptional. A problem within 2 standard deviations of the mean is “systemic”, outside of this it’s probably exceptional.
Only the truly weird amongst us would keep statistics on everything and do the sums to determine these parameters in our lives. However, we can substitute some quasi measurements to give us a good idea of how we are doing and, when we hit a problem, whether it is systemic or exceptional. If you take a good look at your life you will be able to determine what how your ecosystem is performing. What makes up your habitat and what is normal within that habitat. You will know your financial position and what it normally is. Your relationships, be they long, short, good or bad will have a business as normal setting. These are the scales you can use to decide how to tackle a problem.
4 Children and 3 Stepchildren
In my life I have 4 children and 3 step children. My children are all adults whereas my step children are all teenagers…lots and lots of fun. Even more entertaining they come from a completely different cultural background to myself and we all need to coexist. Of late it has been difficult to get the head space I need to relax and be me without having a teenager lurking in their bedroom. This problem was causing me to underperform in my work. Because I work from home and the kids parents do not I am normally available during school holidays etc. I’m fine with that, and to bring balance into the picture, when Dad is home the kids need to be at his place, taking into account Mum’s desire to spend down time with them as well.
Raising the matter with Dad, we found out he wanted the kids over more often and for longer! However, pushing the kids out of the computer driven comfort zone is a whole other matter. The problem was clearly systemic. The way we were managing the children was over time causing me to underperform and that wasn’t going to be good for any of us. If I had looked at this problem as just “my problem” (exceptional) I would not have found a solution. The problem would have dragged on endlessly with my fighting for a bit of space and the kids insisting on their “right of occupancy”. We as a group needed to change the system! Failure to do so could well have killed our existing ecosystem.
It takes time
After 3 months we are still not at a point where the new boundaries have become the unquestioned default. What has become apparent to the adults is this change in system is beneficial to all of us and to the children. Even if they don’t particularly like the change. Instead of battling against the system the revised version is simply delivering what I need. I am able to be part of the system rather than an exception.
The psychological benefits of belonging are substantial. Dad is seeing his children more often for longer, enabling him a better shot a building relationships with them. Mum is getting all of the children she wants and is valuing the downtime and our relationship is being nurtured. What about the children…well I won’t lie two out of three are fine but the third is still campaigning against the new regime. You can’t win them all. The third child is the exception. We now have to put support in place to ensure his needs are met without disrupting the ecosystem again. More about that in another blog.
Key to Andreia’s Living Consciously is the practice of giving up on knowing, being open to change. This is challenging to all of us, and as Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome”. If you want change then you need to have the courage to make a change. If you want to know more click on the link below to access the free mini master class that will start you on your journey to Living Consciously.