The Cart Before The Horse Problem

Some things fail when you do them in the wrong order. Seth Godin makes the point perfectly with The Order of Operations His admonition is order isn’t always optional, don’t do the easiest or less scary part first if that violates the order requirement.

It feels good to get started. But where? It is easy to get so result oriented that we ignore the natural way of things.

Planning complicated operations.

They invented time so everything did not need to happen at once. Part of planning is time order. You ignore that at your peril.

How do you manage that problem? It is not so hard. Begin by noticing that planning is, in its simplest form, using the resources you have or will have to get what you want. Planning under those conditions creates priorities. You assess a choice based on several factors:

  1. Is there a requirement that resources be allocated to this situation now? If you decide to allocate your mortgage payment to something else, you will soon catch the idea of required to.
  2. Are there several ways to do it? Most of the time there is. Assessment of the right way involves understanding its effect in the present and how it creates a requirement in the future. The right choice involves trade-offs in the order. It’s exciting to get a new car with nothing down. The present is easy, but the requirement problem appears 30 days later. Same with furniture with a year to pay. By the time the payments begin you don’t even like it.
  3. Consider probabilities. If a near certain event will occur, like winter will come, you should prepare now even though there is no benefit to do so now. It is harder to deal with low probability events, like I might die. It is a question of how you look at order. Paid premium – didn’t die is not the opposite of didn’t pay premium – did die. One is easy, the other catastrophic. Learn to weigh the value of the benefit adjusted for probability, against its price.
  4. Value flexibility when you don’t know for sure what you want or how you should get it.
  5. Learn from what you do. None of us know everything we could or should. We evolve answers by trimming off the bad decisions and letting the good ones run. You must learn about the 3Rs of planning. Record, Review, and Revise. Record why you made the decision you did. Record ongoing results. Review results against your original hope. Assess the differences and decide to continue or amend your approach. Sometimes better ways to do the same thing show up.
  6. Learn the difference between optimized and perfect. Perfect is a trap.
  7. Have an expectation about what comes next.
  8. Seek help to discover useful tools and processes

The takeaway

If there is a required order to whatever you are doing, it must be observed. It may have a little give here or there, but that’s it. You cannot paint the wall before the drywall is installed. You don’t have to paint as soon as the tape dries, either.

Judge optimized over time, not just as you make the decision.

Keep track of what was decided, why, and why not something else.

The planning order should be Think – Do – Learn – Do again better

Doing before thinking is the Ready – Fire – Aim problem

We make mistakes. Failing to learn from what you do is too expensive.

I help people have more income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call or email or in Canada 705-927-4770

2 Comments on “The Cart Before The Horse Problem

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