Points of Control

Fred Smith highlights the importance of finding and using points of control.

By Fred Smith

It is impossible to control everything and so we must develop points of control. Actually, I think we live more successfully when we do this in our personal lives. Naturally our point of control changes, but it's good for us to know which we are using.

 Let me illustrate from our marriage. When Mary Alice and I married we had five dollars between us. If she had saved more, we would have had more — it was her five dollars. Each week we accumulated a long list of things for me to do on Saturday because we didn't have any money to hire any help. This went on for years. One Saturday morning I was under our house cleaning out the sink --- a great place for thinking — and it suddenly occurred to me that I was still using money as my point of control, when actually I should be using time. By that time I'd grown to the place that I shorter on time than on money. Right then and there I decided that we would hire someone to do any job who would do it for less money that I could make in the same amount of time. Unless I'm doing it for relaxation, then we hire it done.

 The other day I heard a business executive bragging about turning out the lights before he goes home. Now that is what you hire the president to do ---- turn out the lights. There may have been a time when he should spend his time doing that because money was so scarce that it was a point of control. Now this is not true. However, he is holding to an old point and should change.

 Individuals who are most effective in their use of time do not have a segmented concept of time, but rather a continuous one. They simply say, "Am I doing the most important thing that I could be doing right now?" This works night and day and becomes a way to see life. I know one executive who will not permit his mail to be delivered until after lunch, because he finds his mail interferes with the schedule which he has established the night before. He has found that there is very little that can't wait four hours, and he feels the most important thing he could be doing is following his personal agenda.

 Personally, I have changed from money to time to energy. When we are young, wasting energy is not one of our concerns. Now it is different. At 65 we have the same amount of time but not the same amount of energy. Therefore, energy becomes a point of control over time. There are some things that are simply not worth my energy any more. I can't blow my top, for example. I used to enjoy it. Now I can't afford it, because it costs me half a day's energy. I must stay out of frustrating situations --- they use too much energy. But you ask, how can I avoid them? The same way a man who has had a heart attack avoids getting excited --- by discipline.

 Incidentally, if you want to read an intriguing book, try Viktor Frankel's "Man's Search For Meaning." In it he points out that man's ultimate freedom is simply his choice of attitude. As an executive I cannot avoid situations which would normally be frustrating, but I can choose to adopt an attitude of not being frustrated.

 Just as there are points of control in our personal lives, there are also points in business. Let me just list a few for you:

 1) Marketing

2) Employee Relations

3) Financial

4) Manufacturing

5) Organizational Development

6) Problem-Solving

 Where do you want control? Do old points need to be changed? Identify what you want to control and what you want to measure. Keep current and stay effective. Make sure that you are controlling at the right point and that the results you get are the results you expect and desire.