Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trim Tab Analogy: Making Minor Changes

Being a person that loves analogies, I had to pass this one along.
When I heard Stephen Covey speak a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned trim tabs. Unless you've spent much time on a boat, you probably aren't familiar with trim tabs , so you can click here and educate yourself if you want.

On a boat, the predominant way to steer is by moving the rudder. This causes the boat to turn left or right, changing the course of the boat. The changes made are usually major ones and involve setting a new course or maneuvering to avoid an obstacle. For these types of changes the rudder is the perfect tool.

However, once a boat is headed on a course, moving the rudder too much can cause problems, like getting off course. Trim tabs however, are used to stabilize the boat and balance it so it moves smoothly through the water. For example, when driving the boat at the lake if someone gets up from the left side and sits on the right side, the weight in the boat shifts and causes everyone to lean to the right because it is unevenly weighted. After a while, this becomes a little uncomfortable, so I make an adjustment to the trim tabs and the boat balances out even again.

From a business perspective, we often think we need to grab the wheel and adjust the rudder every time something changes. We make drastic changes to our plans and our direction because of this and often find ourselves on a totally new course that we never intended to go on and spend a lot of energy dealing with consequences we weren't prepared to deal with.

As a business owner, you are at the helm. You have control of the boat, and you decide how to react to change. I think small business owners are so concerned about making a mistake and missing what will later be called an obvious signal, that they over steer using the rudder at every little shift they experience. Be cautious not to a make major reactive change to something that can be solved with minor adjustments to the trim tabs and retain balance.