Building Better Habits

WorkoutMost people, including me, usually get excited about a new initiative and are full of energy for some time. However, we often lose momentum and fall back, if not exactly where we started, far from where we wanted to go with only some incremental change. And then we look for the next initiative.

How do we keep the momentum going? How do we transform a new initiative into a habit that improves our business or life?

When I was a child I was told that if you do anything twenty-one times it becomes a habit. A simple trick! In business, an initiative like Six Sigma isn’t going to work unless it becomes a habit for all employees associated with the process. Once it becomes a habit, it’s followed in due course. That’s when the consequences of the initiative—the improvements we expect it to bring to the business or to life—will follow.

This simple fact is often missed out because it is not obvious. Buckminister Fuller had a wonderful illustration of leverage– the trim tab. The trim tab is a small ‘rudder on the rudder’ of a ship. It is only a fraction of the size of the rudder. Its function is to turn the rudder, which, then, makes it easier to turn the ship. The larger the ship, the more important is the trim tab because a large volume of water flowing around the rudder can make it difficult to turn. But what makes this trim tab such a marvelous metaphor for leverage is not it’s effectiveness, but it’s non-obviousness. There are high-leverage changes in human systems that are non-obvious until we understand the forces at play in those systems.

Becoming disciplined with initiatives is tough, but only until you get used to it. We all know we need to exercise for our health and happiness but most of us make the excuse of not having enough time. One day I get up in the morning and do my exercises, get tired by the afternoon, and the next day I simply forget that I made a commitment to exercise. But if I am disciplined and exercise every day for twenty-one days, by the end of that time it will have become a habit and my day won’t start right unless I follow my exercise “routine”.

That’s exactly what I experienced. It was difficult in the beginning but after the first three weeks I found myself enjoying it.

At work too, I tell my people to not lose energy whenwe are on the second morning (having exercised on the first day—metaphorically speaking). The second morning is the test for the sustained effort. Then we require efforts to keep it going for a few days and start enjoying the change till we get to a habit. Let us hope that all of us give the energy to the sustained efforts for quality and improvements in our work place and for developing our business.

Once we get to a point where the habits (we can even call them rituals) get ingrained in the system, for the next big leap in business we need ingenuity.

When I first heard of “ritualized ingenuity”, I thought it was an oxymoron. How can we follow rituals and still ingrain ingenuity in the system? But when I gave it more thought, it became clear that the first step is to get into a habit of excellence and then create a habit of ingenuity or creativity: and there we will find ritualized ingenuity. They are complementary to each other and sustain each other.

So what good habit are you going to build in the next three weeks?

About Sunil Garde
President of Pune Operations at Affinity Express, Sunil has more than 26 years of experience, with the last 14 years in senior positions in the IT-enabled/BPO/KPO industries. While not juggling busy days at Affinity Express, he loves reading, jogging and meditation.

One Response to Building Better Habits

  1. Abhi says:

    Very nice…
    I like it

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