Relax…it WILL take longer than you think!


Many of us are impatient for results. When we have launched a new product, we want to see hordes of customers immediately. When we composed a new song, we want it to be Top 10 tomorrow. When a new movie opens, we want to see the halls filled with people. Sometimes it happens, but most of the time, it doesn’t. As we discuss systems, we need to talk about system lag.

System lag

Let me recount a situation that you should be familiar with. So you’re jumping into the shower, rushing to get ready for your early morning meeting. You turn the mixer to the middle of hot and cold, and wait for the gush. When it comes, the water is FREEZING! You automatically react by pushing it way into the hot zone, and suddenly scalding hot water gushes out, forcing you to get out of the way, and turning the knob to cold; leading you to another dance to get out of the freezing water again. You do these adjustments until you end up right at the middle of the two, something which you had started out with!

Sounds familiar? I am sure this has happened to you sometime this past week, even if you are so familiar with it (it did me!)

The problem comes with our expectation of instantaneous gratification. We want the results NOW! Yet in a system – and the shower is a system – things take time to normalize, and by tweaking the inputs, we actually take a longer time to get to where we want to be.

Each change in a system input will require the whole system to react; and the more complex the system, the longer it takes to fully respond to the change. So if there is a series of input changes whilst the first reaction had not taken its full course, the system will oscillate between these inputs, taking a longer time to settle down. So what should we do about this?

1. Relax, it will take time

The most obvious is to just wait for the change to take place. If you are committed to your system as it is, then you will need to accept its limitations. Making input changes before the initial outcome is seen might put your system out of sync for much longer than necessary. Understand how long it will take, and then wait. A normal baby will take 9 months to come out, no matter what you do to try to tweak the inputs!

2. Optimize your system

Some systems had been cobbled together over time and may be a hodge-podge of different processes. This causes untold delays that should be designed away. This requires you to take each process, each step, of the system, and find the best solution around it. It might be painstaking now, and it might cause quite a lot of disruption, but the price may be well worth it when it optimized.

3. Change the system altogether

There may come a time when your system is so outdated that no amount of optimizing will work because it is totally out of sync. You can see that when operators design work-arounds to the limitations of the system. It is time to cut it and develop a new system. Sometimes, this is a faster solution to the second one, but it may be costly. The key is to juxtapose between speed and cost.


Unless we are ready and willing to tweak or change the system, there is no point in losing sleep if results are not forthcoming. Such is the nature of systems, so you might as well relax, because it WILL take longer than you think!

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