the butterfly effectAccording to Wikipedia, in chaos theory, the term “butterfly effect” refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings create tiny changes in the atmosphere. This tiny change might ultimately create or alter the path of a tornado.

The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of a system. As a result, this could start a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Think of the domino or ripple effects.

Theoretically, had the butterfly NOT flapped its wings, the outcome of the system might have been vastly different.

Relating the Butterfly Effect to Your Business

The important thing is to know WHEN to “flap,” and HOW!let me explain! 

Every business owner and manager has seen the effect of good systems, or the LACK of them, on their products and/or services.

Just last week, I visited the facility of one of our clients, who was hosting another company from California. Five of us sat brainstorming at a conference table. Using a couple of laptops and a projection screen, we mapped a process for eliminating chaos in their industry. It took us two days to develop a comprehensive Master Control Checklist. Seeing the result, it became clear to them, how one step in the process effects many other systems, processes and people.

Trying to write a step-by-step quality control checklist can be tedious and grueling work. It takes time to anticipate the many variables you will encounter, in order to minimize the negative effects on the final outcome,  However, the results are amazing and rewarding.

When you finally see the power of your systems at work, and the money that can be saved in reducing chaos and waste, you will never be the same again.

The Entrepreneurial Dilemma

During the second day of developing this system, we took a break at one point and somehow got on the subject of entrepreneurs. We discussed their good and bad characteristics. It seems that we entrepreneurs are notorious for not finishing what we start, before we begin chasing the next big idea.

My client—a true entrepreneur—talked enthusiastically about some new opportunities he had discovered. Midstream in his dialogue he cut me a glance; his hands working as if to grasp invisible flying things in mid-air.

“Here’s a blue one,” he said, “and here’s a red one. Oh, there’s a yellow one,” he said. Becoming concerned, I wondered if two days concentrating on systems had caused him some kind of brain trauma.

“I’m an entrepreneur—I’m chasing butterflies,” my client laughed.

The importance of what he said was not lost on me OR my client.

Chasing One Butterfly at a Time

Over the past couple of years, this client and I have been working together to systemize his company for his industry.  He has learned, as I finally had to, that it’s normal for an entrepreneur to see opportunity around every corner. However, as business owners and managers, we need to focus on one “butterfly” at a time.

When we do have a new idea (i.e. for marketing, or even a whole other business), we must learn to write it down. Make a list—your “butterfly collection”—then pull it out and dissect it when it’s the RIGHT time to implement it, systematically.

Remember, if the flapping of a butterfly wing might lead to a full-blown tornado—too much “flapping” around in your business might just lead to chaos.

Stay the course!

Did I mention? Great Systems Work!