How To Make It Reproducible

One of my personal core values is reproducibility. In all my work, I endeavor to not just do something myself, but to help people to learn to do it and for them to pass it along to others. Here’s how I make things reproducible.

Making something reproducible is both hard and easy. It’s hard because we make it hard. We add it too much and make it too personality-driven – usually our personality. And it’s easy, once you learn what people can do if they are given the essentials. This article will help you with all this.

Start by thinking about the process, activity, workshop, or idea that you want to reproduce. Think about everything it takes to do it. Now, read on…

1. Eliminate The “Fluff”

Strip your process to its DNA. Eliminate unnecessary requirements, steps, and nice-to-haves. This is very painful. We’re in love with not just what we do but how we do it. And because we learned to do it this way, we think it’s all essential. It isn’t.

Authors face this constantly. It takes a lot of effort to put thoughts into sentences. I feel a dilemma when a beautifully written paragraph, or worse, a page or chapter, doesn’t fit with the rest. Best-selling author Stephen King wrote, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Hitting the DELETE button is painful to my ego!

If you want to reproduce your idea or process, you must identify the core essentials and then eliminate the “fluff.” The more extras there are and the more complicated it is, the less reproducible it will be. Find the essence that will pass along the DNA and eliminate the rest.

2. Essential Isn’t Always Simple

Some things that are reproducible don’t actually reproduce what they are meant to. If you take away the wrong things, the DNA, the relevance, or the meaning will no longer be there.

Some things take skill, and to be reproducible you must factor that skill in. When I began training people how to coach, the response was, “This is great! I want to teach this workshop to people in my organization.” Before they have coached others, they wanted to teach others how to be effective coaches. If I eliminated experience coaching others as a requirement to teaching others coaching skills, what would we reproduce? Most likely, mediocre coaching.

Even though it limits reproducibility, I require graduation from one of our coaching programs as a measure of skill before someone may train others using our coaching processes and materials. This requirement is a huge bottleneck to reproducing coaching trainers. My objective is not to reproduce coach trainers, but to reproduce people who can coach well. Make sure you are reproducing what you intend to.

3. Create A Minimum Viable Product

Put together the very minimum elements that make the idea or process viable. Viable means it works and is attractive enough to the people for which it is designed. If you want to create something reproducible, you must figure out what is the minimum to make it viable. Then eliminate everything else.

Remember the first iPhone? It was a minimum viable product for a crowded market space. Compared to the iPhone of today it was extremely limited. There was no copy and paste function, no push email, and no third-party apps. You couldn’t have two programs open at once. Or talk on the phone and do anything else on the device. The original iPhone did have a number of innovations and these were enough to make the iPhone viable.

The key to what is minimally viable is to know your audience. Tech geeks railed against the original iPhone. They criticized the lack of features they hoped Apple would introduce. Fortunately for Apple, tech geeks were not the intended audience, normal consumers were, and they loved the iPhone. To reproduce your idea or process it’s important to know your intended audience.

Make Your Process Reproducible

These steps work equally well when developing a new reproducible process or revising an existing one.

For me, I have to work through these steps several times in order to make something reproducible. It usually begins too complicated and based too much on my personality, preferences, and work style. I repeatedly eliminate, simplify, and question the process. And test as I go.

For example, I created a trainer’s license for our 3-day coaching workshop and made a train-the-trainer program a requirement. I quickly realized that attending the train-the-trainer program was a bottleneck. People had trouble getting to that event and therefore didn’t get a trainer’s license.

There were a few people, however, who I allowed to get a trainer’s license without attending the train-the-trainer program. Surprisingly, they produced nearly the same results as the others who attended. This made me wonder if the train-the-trainer program was essential or a “nice-to-have.” I tested this with more people and they also achieved good results. So, I eliminated the train-the-trainer program requirement altogether.

Now it’s your turn. What do you need to make more reproducible? Schedule some time right now to work through these steps with your idea or process.

Question: What have you found helpful in making something reproducible? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    4 thoughts on “How To Make It Reproducible

    1. I’ve found this very helpful as I am working on a basic structure for a specific support group niche. This article made me think of several items that need to be eliminated from what I wrote so far in order to be more user friendly. Some of my preferences need to go. Thanks for you writing, Keith.