The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility… The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle. - Albert Einstein
The world is full of mysteries and miracles!
Mysteries come in all sizes. They can stand for centuries, like finding the proof for the Riemann Hypothesis. Most are innocent, like, “where did my leftover wings go?”
The same goes for miracles. They can fade into the background as our expectations rise, like unlimited water with the turn of a tap. Or we can be floored after we witness the impossible, like when SpaceX landed two rockets simultaneously.
The rocket landing was miraculous because the SpaceX team has a deep comprehension of what it takes to launch and land a rocket. When you have that level of understanding, you can accomplish things that previously seemed stuck in sci-fi novels. When you understand the rules, you can create something that resembles mastery in that part of the world.
Bringing things back to the ground, I review processes in various functions of the business. Most of these reviews fall closer to the “expected miracle” on our tap water to SpaceX scale. There are plenty of existing strategies out there for how to increase product engagement to drive revenue growth. In practice, I have not found two companies that do things the same way. That is where building comprehension in this case is helpful to the group immediately around you.
When I start a project, I need to quickly build understanding and deliver an insight before moving on to the next area. As I’ve worked on more projects, a central process has surfaced. My approach is a simple 3-step process:
The 3Ms of Comprehension
If you can learn to apply the 3Ms in your business, you can work your own miracles.
Excited? Let’s dig in.
The first step is a lot of definition setting. We need to learn the rules and plot out the sequence of possible actions.
As Dwight from The Office says:
Learn your rules. You better learn your rules. If you don’t, you’ll be eaten in your sleep. crunch
If we run through a purely hypothetical example - say a $50k online course launch - what would we need to measure? What would our launch sequence be?
With a target and a high-level guide, we are ready to monitor.
The second step is about gathering the data. Do we have the data points historically? If not, put the project on pause and give yourself some time to collect the data. I’ll wait.
You’ll likely find the data you need scattered across the silos of SaaS. That is okay. As a one-off, you can pluck out the numbers you need from each system. When you are ready for something more advanced, we can talk about extracting the data from all those silos. For now, keep the momentum.
To take our hypothetical - but oddly personal - example, I would need to pull data from at least four tools.
Do not let the increasing complexity bog you down. Charge ahead. You are about to deliver the win with your model.
Modeling is where we get to have fun! During this step, you prove your mastery of the process. You can project the existing data to see if you are on track to attain your goal. You get to crunch the data and look at it from different perspectives to find that glint of an insight. You can shake up the order of operations to see if you can unplug that bottleneck. All of this happens in your digital safe space of rows and columns.
Then you emerge to spread the word of a promising path forward. Your problem is no longer a mystery, and your understanding has revealed how to pull off a miracle. To borrow a phrase from Ramit Sethi, “It’s not magic, it’s math.”
Once making it through the 3Ms, I am left feeling one of two ways.
It is a wonder this process works. Which kicks off a mad scramble to get a better workflow in place before Tick-Tock the Croc chomps the month close clock.
- or -
This process works wonders! The process so brilliantly abstracts the complexity away that I just want to soak in the warm brilliance of the people behind the work.
Either way, before you move onto the next mystery - do yourself a couple of favors.
Write down what you did. You’ll be able to skip the Measure step next time.
Add instrumentation to continuously collect the data you need. You’ll be able to leap over the Monitor step.
Cleaning up at the end here will save you time when someone asks for “a quick refresh” and allows you to build upon your work with other questions. Let me say that again. It will let you build upon your work. Repeatedly closing the loop on the 3Ms becomes increasingly powerful as you build up your Lego bricks of comprehension.
Take joy in your work, keep solving mysteries, and build your own miracles.
Let me know if this was helpful. Where would you like to hear more?