Sunday, January 5, 2014

Did you feed the dog?

At our house, we now have two dogs - Bella - and our foster dog, Collin. Both dogs are fed twice day. One big dog, one little dog. We know that we have to keep the dogs separate during feeding, that is just common sense. We don’t want Bella eating Collin’s food, and we don’t want Collin eating Bella’s food. And we don’t want them to fight over food. It is not their fault, that is just hard-wired into their doggie DNA. After all, they are dogs.

Every day for years, we would hear someone shout out from the kitchen: “Did you feed Bella? Did anyone feed Bella? Do you know if Bella was fed?” Sometimes, we need to make a phone call: “Sorry to bother you, but do you know if Bella was fed?”

It did not really hit me until we started to foster dogs that this conversation happened in our house, twice a day, every single day for many years. We did not assume that Bella was fed - that would not be fair to Bella. She could easily get cheated out of a meal. And, giving her food more than twice a day would be unhealthy and it would cause her to gain weight. And if you offer a dog food, they will be happy to eat it. Her gaining weight would not be Bella’s fault. It would be ours.

Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs that are over nourished, lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are the most at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan, even if your dog is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.

So, without even thinking the same conversation would take place over and over. Was the dog fed. Was the dog fed. Better call your mother and find out if she fed the dog. We had no system, we just defaulted to the inefficient, mindless, redundant, duplicated conversations to poll the family to find out “was the dog fed” and then, the obvious follow up questions: “Are you SURE the dog was fed?” You better call and double check.

Enter our foster dog, Collin.

Now we have two different bags of dog food. Two different brands. Two food stations. Two water bowls. Big dog, little dog. Different food portions, different everything. And now, we also have a system.

The dog food bags have large “clips” on them, to keep the dog food fresh. The clips on the dog food bags tell us what we need to know. If the clip is placed at an angle like this: / then we know the dogs were fed for the morning. If the clip is placed at an angle like this: \ then we know that the evening meal was served. So, one only has to look at the clip; the clip has become like a sundial. The big clip does not just keep the dog food bag closed, it communicates important information. If it is evening, and the clip is still pointing to the morning position, it is safe to feed the dogs. If it is morning, and the clip is pointing to the morning position, this signals that the dog(s) were already fed. Or, one dog was fed, and the other dog was not fed. Brilliant.

Bella’s dog food bag had a clip on it for years, but it was always in this horizontal position: --- The clip was used to simply keep the bag closed, and nothing more. When there was only one dog, it was OK to just keep asking the same question multiple times a day like a bunch of morons: Did anyone feed the dog? Sorry to call you at work, but did you feed the dog? But now, simply having two dogs, we needed a system. Did you feed Bella? Did you feed Collin? Now we are going to have twice the number of phone calls - no, that was not going to work. Collin’s arrival at Camp Capone was the trigger, he was the muse. Collin’s arrival was the Mother of Invention. We needed a system, and a system we shall have!

In my company, I find myself working with people who live and are located all around the world. Did you (he, she, they) do it yet? Is it done? Is this now fixed? Was this taken care of? Did you call them back? Did you ship it?

I am the CEO, so the buck stops with me. Is this my life now - having to constantly ask people all around the world: did you do it, did you do it, did you do it? Is this done? Is this now done? OK, so NOW is this done? Are there not collaboration tools, online remote tools that would make asking such inefficient and redundant questions a thing of the past?

Of course there are such wonderful, magical collaboration tools! Ah, yeah boss. We actually sell them.

And so, we have today’s blog. As humans (not robots): first, we don’t realize that we need a system. Then, we realize that we indeed need a system. Then we realize that we need to actually USE the system.

If you don’t know that you have a problem (in life, at work, in business) you will never seek out a solution. That would be just nuts - it is out of sequence. But, once you recognize that you actually have a problem, once you “see the need” to seek out a possible solution, then the problem becomes impossible to ignore. Your mind will never allow you to un-ring that bell, or put that problematic genie back into the bottle. Once you see it, you cannot pretend you did not see it. Once seen, a problem in seek of a solution - a system - cannot be unseen.

But what if one simply “forgets” to adjust the clip” you say? What if you simply forget to put the clip back in the proper signaling position? What if you simply don’t know the dog food bag clip positioning system? What if you were never trained in the fine art of dog food bag clip placement? 

Gee, I wonder if training is available for dog food bag clip placement? Is there a support group for those who are dog food bag clip placement challenged? 

“My name is Ed, and I am a horizontal dog food bag clip placer.”

A system is not "a system" if it cannot be taught and learned. If it is indeed a system, it can be mastered. And systems can be improved upon. That is key to the entire system mastery concept. The ongoing improvement to the system itself is what makes it a system.

Once you have a system (in life, at work, in business) you can never go back to a life without a system. Not being trained on the system is not the same as ignorance of a system. Not being willing to be trained, and not seeking out the mastery of the system in question is not the same as not being aware that there is a system waiting for you to master it.

“Forgetting” to properly position the dog food bag clip, is not the same as not knowing - not being aware that there IS a proper dog food bag clip position.

You cannot force anyone to do anything that they truly do not want to do. But if they want to learn, if they want to fix a problem, if they want to grow and advance themselves in life and in their careers - you can give people who care to learn a system to follow.

“I did not know we had a system” is not the same as “I forgot to follow the system” or “Don't tell the boss, but I don’t like that system, so I don’t follow it” or any other unhelpful indigent comment like that. If you did not know there was a system, well then that is a valid excuse - once. All other subsequent excuses after that first one (in life, at work and in business) are lame by default.

Once you know there is “a system” that benefits yourself and others - once you know that there is a proper way to place “the clip” (in life, at work, in business) then it is your responsibility to do it as per the system. It is up to you to do the right thing, all the time, every time, no exceptions. Your dogs (and your family, co-workers and clients) are counting on you. Here’s to healthy dogs, and non-horizontal dog food bag clips everywhere.

Our foster dog, Collin.

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