After more than 20 years of working with Owners, CEO’s, Directors and Executives, I have learned a few things. Like what makes it takes for organizations to really fix their problems. Here it is:
1. Decide whether you really want to fix your problems or just live with them more successfully. Admittedly, not all problems are worth fixing, but let’s focus on the ones that are. Some organizations don’t really want these problems to go away, just make them become more tolerable. Being just good enough somehow seems easier than becoming amazing. That is almost always a mistake. Mediocrity spreads and saps the energy out of every organization I have ever been in. It drives away passion and innovation. It keeps external talent from wanting to join you and encourages internal talent to leave for a better company. Good enough for one thing becomes good enough for everything. Soon, you have more problems than you know what to do with. Instead, decide to aim high. That is what the great organizations do.
2. Have the guts to confront the root cause of your problems. I’m not talking about vague symptoms like “lack of revenue growth”, “low productivity” or “poor morale”. I’m talking about the real reasons things aren’t going well. The nasty, scary and embarrassing reasons that people only utter in hushed tones when other people can’t overhear them. Someone in your business probably knows what is really going on but doesn't feel it's OK to say so. Here is a technique that works. Resist the urge to just fix the symptoms. Instead ask people “why is this happening” every time you encounter the problem. Then ask the question again when you get the first answer. That will get you closer to the real cause. Be open to hearing the truth, otherwise you won’t get the truth. That’s what great leaders do.
3. First decide who is going fix it, not what to do. This is a concept in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” recommending you start with the right people in the right roles, not the solution. This is unfailingly true. I have also found these two other things to be true: you can’t change anything with people who have a vested interest in the status quo and the most knowledgeable people in your company are not always the ones to find the best solution. Edison never invented the lightbulb by consulting the best candle makers. Get the right people in the right chairs, get them clear about what they need to do, engaged and empowered to deal with problem and let them come up with the ideas. Let them convince you. Test their thinking, then support them. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a team to build a business.
4. Admit that changing what needs to be changed is going to be hard, then do it anyways. To paraphrase an old saying, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is nuts. Something needs to change. But don’t make the mistake thinking that issuing an email will solve the problem. It seldom does. Deal with it in person. Make it an imperative. Be clear about the goal and be clear about who is accountable. Get a strategy, get a plan, but don’t wimp out on the goal. Then push till it’s done and celebrate. I have watched too many times as organizations spend painful amounts of time and effort trying to avoid doing what must be done, only to suffer longer as they put off the inevitable. Yes, change is hard, but it is better than living with the problem forever. Another fact is that change becomes easier with practice. And like learning any new skill, turning to the right experts for some advice and coaching can help tremendously.
5. Be relentless until you get the result you want. We live in an instant-on culture that can be overwhelmed with initiatives that take time and effort to accomplish. To overcome that, you need to break it down into steps, persevere, manage, measure, coach and track progress along the way. If your plan isn’t working, adapt. If you run into issues, fix them. But never give up. How many organizations give up too soon? Lots. Don’t be one of them. Instead, be one of the ones that develop an expectation of success.
Simple enough although far from easy to do well. But if you really want problems in your organization to get fixed, there are few other alternatives that work in my experience.
Blueneck provides comprehensive business diagnostic services to help owners understand the root cause of their problems and business tune-ups to help get things running smoothly again. Contact us for more information.