EP 353: Dancing With Systems In Clickup With Lou Blaser & Sean McMullin from YellowHouse.Media

Sep 7, 2021 | Operations, Podcast, Software & Services

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

In This Episode:

  • Why Sean McMullin & Lou Blaser, from YellowHouse.Media, switched their project management software from Notion to Clickup (and why it’s not the right move for everyone!)
  • How they’ve reduced their podcast management procedure from 75 sub-tasks to 11 umbrella tasks
  • Why streamlining the procedure has allowed them to bring a more customized approach to each podcast they produce
  • How focusing on the system behind podcast production has helped them create a lot more capacity for new clients

A couple of months back, I read a downright beautiful article about systems.

Yes, you heard that right: a beautiful, thoughtful, and useful article about… systems.

It was written by Donella Meadows, an influential environmental scientist and leading thinker on systems change in the 20th century.

The article outlines 14 principles for *dancing* with systems. But today I want to focus on the first: get the beat.

When we talk about business systems, it’s easy to default to software, automation, or project management.

But a system is much more organic than that.

And if we don’t allow for a system’s inherently organic nature, we miss out on really understanding that system in order to work with it, dance with it.

Meadows explains that a mistake we so often make when we approach systems is that we see understanding the system as a way of predicting and controlling its output.

She writes, “The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable.”

I get that that might be frustrating—especially as we see data and the ability to instantly connect with customers as modes for the ultimate in business predictability.

It can also be a relief.

If the goal of understanding systems isn’t to control them or predict their output but to dance with them and learn from them, we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves!

And that brings me to Meadows first dance step—get the beat. The mistake I see business owners make with systems is that they try to impose systems on their businesses. They create or build systems for different areas of their businesses.

But that negates the systems already at work in a business. And inevitably, trying to create a system instead of investigating a system, leads to frustration.

Meadows writes, “Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves.”

So let’s say you want to work on your marketing system. If you start with a blank page and start building something from scratch, you’re missing out on all of the data & feedback that already exists in your marketing system as it is now (whether you know it’s a system or not).

If instead, you map out your existing marketing system, no matter how haphazard or messy, you can start to ask some really interesting questions about that system:

  • How did we get here?
  • How else could this work?
  • What might happen if we don’t make a change?
  • What are the long-term ripple effects of allowing this system to continue to play out?
  • How does a proposed change impact other components of the system?

This is getting the beat before you start trying to dance.

You tap your foot, bob your head, move your shoulders and feel for the beat of your own business’s systems. And then you can start to dance.

This month on What Works, we’re taking a look at systems. And we’re going to do that in very concrete and structural ways. But we’re also exploring systems thinking—which is another term for dancing with systems!

When you bring a systems thinking approach to business strategy, management, sales, marketing, and even the creative process, how does that shift your decision-making and action?

To kick things off, I wanted to start with a conversation from my own team—the YellowHouse.Media team. I asked Sean McMullin and Lou Blaser to talk with me about the systems they’re using to manage the podcasts we produce and how they’re organizing that in Clickup.

Moving to Clickup was absolutely a case of getting the beat. Sean had to pay close attention to how our podcasts hosts worked, what was different from the way hosts who are always on deadline versus hosts who work ahead approach their work, and how software was either adding or removing friction from the process.

Sean and Lou talk about all of that and more.

So let’s find out what works for managing projects at YellowHouse.Media!

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