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Natural Selection in Process Improvement

written by JIBRAN EL BAZI |

We are continually improving processes wherever we go. To highlight this, I even wrote about seeing everything as a process.

In this article, I want to show the value of natural selection (through trial and error) on process improvement. And to avoid boring you to death with abstractions, I want you to indulge me in a little story.

Specifically, I will tell a short story about farmer John's Wife, Erica, and her son Andy.

No time to waste

This family of three has one peculiar quirk; they cannot read the time. Not on a clock, not on a sundial, not even with an hourglass.

In all other matters, the family is pretty typical, no other weird magical quirks anyway.

The family always gets up when the rooster crows, which happens at the same moment every morning. John goes to work on the field virtually immediately, and won't show his face until lunchtime. 

Erica, John's wife, has to get Andy ready for school. Specifically, for the school bus that comes to pick up Andy. 

The school bus arrives at the same time in front of their house every day like clockwork (pun very much intended).

But remember, the family can't read time, though Andy still needs to be ready to get on the bus all clothed, fed, and with his backpack packed.

How do Andy and his mother do this? How do they know when Andy has to go outside and walk to the bus stop?

Well, they have a process they work through. A process where, if Erica and Andy go through all the steps in order, in the same way they did last time, they know they'll be finished right on time for the bus.

This process wasn't very effective at first. Very ineffective even. The first few times, Andy was too late for the bus. Other times there were moments he was way too early, having to wait for the bus in the cold for a long time.

But eventually, through changing both the order and amount of their morning tasks, they found a set of steps- a process- that worked very effectively. So effective, that they could rely on working through the process as a means of being on time.

What do we learn from Erica and Andy?

Erica and Andy didn't know WHEN to do tasks, but they did know WHAT tasks.  After a method of trial and error, they found the right order for all their tasks.

Now they don't even have to look at the time, because they have a process that works.

Lesson 1 - Have a goal

I use this story to drive home the point that not knowing "when the bus comes" is OK. As in, we are not sure at the beginning of any venture of what works and what doesn't. So it is best to try out a lot of things and see what steps help you get closer to a goal.

And that is precisely why having a goal is essential, even if you don't reach it, you have something on which to focus. A direction to which you can work. And you "solve" your process towards that outcome.

Lesson 2 - Don't be afraid to fail

A second, but related, reason is that we should not be scared to fail.

We can't know when an opportunity (or bad luck) strikes. We can only try out things, again and again, to see what works.

That's why successful entrepreneurs preach like gospel, "you have to fail forward." Meaning you should not be afraid to fail. Better is to even thrive in the act of failing because you learn something, which you can then use for your next process.


We learned that we could look at everything as a process. We saw that processes could be improved when a clear outcome is defined. And that you should not be afraid to experiment with different parts of a process (to change it).

What is your tried and tested morning process? What other procedures do you go through diligently in your life? Feel free to share them! :)

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