The military invented the idea of Standard Operating Procedure. When in doubt, default to the SOP and, by taking the specified steps, your outcome will be exactly as the SOP predicts.
In my time in government, I came to think “SOP” really stood for “Same Old Plan”. The Same Old Plan keeps things safe and comfortable — and the outcome predictable.
Which is OK.
But not exactly creative. Or ground-breaking. Or exciting. Or quick. Or always right. In truth, the SOP doesn’t have to solve the problem — it just has to be followed.
I discovered that sometimes, in order to really solve the problem, you have to throw out the SOP in favor of a NIP. A New Innovative Plan.
To build a NIP, all you have to do is exactly the opposite of what the SOP requires. There’s an old joke that goes something like this: “Man: ‘Doctor, it hurts when I go like this’ (banging his head against the table) Doctor: ‘The cure is simple. Stop banging your head against the table.'”
Plain and simple — a NIP keeps you from banging your head against the table. Here’s a helpful way to decide if you need a NIP or an SOP — if a SOP works, keep doing it. But if it’s not working, NIP it in the bud. [I crack myself up.]
If your weight loss plan isn’t working, take a look at your SOP. Not the SOP you tell everyone, but the SOP you actually follow, which is something like: “I’ll get started on my diet tomorrow. Tonight I’m going to have this half gallon of ice cream.” Remember, your NIP is the exact opposite of what you usually do, so your NIP is, “I’m starting right now and not eating the ice cream.”
Want better communication with your teenager? Look at how you’re communicating now. If your SOP is lectures, edicts and nagging, do you really wonder why she won’t talk with you? Try the opposite — listening, asking questions and showing respect for her opinions. You may not see a cleaner room, but you’ll definitely have a better relationship.
“I keep meeting the same kind of guys,” says a single woman. “They’re irresponsible and all they want is a good time.” OK. “Where are you looking?” she’s asked. “Oh, in strip clubs, off-track betting shops and at dog fights. I guess there just aren’t any respectable men left.” Oh, there are plenty of them — in places opposite to where you’re looking. Try libraries, offices, dog parks, animal shelters, shopping malls, churches, synagogues, mosques and Buddhist meditation centers. For a start.
In the places in your life where you’re stuck, take a look at your SOP. If it’s not working for you, if you’re not making the change you really, really want, then give a NIP a try. Do the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing, and watch your progress.
There’s a disputed quote, attributed to both Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome.” In that light, following a SOP is often an insane course. The NIP, however, is a pretty sane approach, don’t you think?
You can attribute that one to me.