Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

Why don’t they?

Starting over

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

AGI Institute – Theory of Constraints

Evolution (Disambiguation)

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How to motivate yourself on Monday

2 10 2006

Here we go again, Monday morning, back to work. Need some ideas on how to get pumped up for the week ahead?

1. The survivor approach. Challenge yourself to attack the most difficult work problems first thing today. Admit that it has to be done and might be the most uncomfortable or unpleasant activity you will encounter during the week. Once this is out of the way you’ll be surprised how much easier the rest of the week will be.

2. Send out positive energy. Be cheerful, upbeat and responsive to customers and coworkers. Say hello to everyone, acknowledge their presence. If you encounter grumpy, sad or depressed individuals smile at them and move on. Leave everyone you meet with the impression that you’re happy, full of enthusiasm and motivated today. Sound completely out of character for you? Good.

3. Monday is list execution day. List makers should prepare their weekly to-do lists on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening. When you walk into the office on Monday the plan is waiting for you to dig in and execute it.

4. You are working for you. Remember that you are working in order to achieve your personal goals. The work is part of that process. You are not working for XYZ corporation, you truly are working for yourself. It’s your decision to stay or to leave the company, your future is in your hands. Try that attitude on and see what happens.

5. Make someone proud of you. Everyone has a person or persons in their lives that they love and respect. Who are these people in your life? What could you do today at work to make them proud of you? Do it.

6. Act like an invincible leader. Feeling miserable and trying to spread that misery, gloom, doom and depression to others is a pretty pathetic way to live. Do you like to be around people with this attitude? Why would others want to be around you if you are a walking “cloud of misery and darkness”? You are a victim if you agree to be one.

7. Give yourself prizes. Set some work goals and create rewards for their completion that can be enjoyed on the weekend.

8. Motivation through memories. On the way to work think about the times in your life when you were the most enthusiastic, excited, motivated and happy. Remember the way you felt, identify why you felt so good, relive those experiences.

9. Go to work with a specific mission and deadlines. Make specific commitments for goal completion to others.

10. Decide to take a vacation. Burned out, stressed out, unable to focus, unable to get excited? Take time off, disconnect from work (that means no email, no telephone calls). Recharge your batteries. Figure out when you are going, for how long, with who and where.

11. Let cosmic forces and your subconscious decide. Sit down in a quiet spot, turn off the cellular phone, lock the door and try to clear your mind. In a matter of minutes you will begin to be bombarded with ideas or things you should be doing, and their priorities. Open your eyes, and get started.

12.  Music.  You know the tunes that start your feet tapping or set your soul soaring.  Record them, put them in your I-pod, burn a disk for the car.

13.  Change.  Setting a routine is quite normal, and comforting, but not motivating.  Change something.  Maybe it’s breakfast, the way to work, your clothes…who knows.  Fiddle around with your patterns and routines.

14.  Altruism.  Do something for someone else, without seeking anything in return.  Random acts of kindness.

R elated Links

Showtime – how do you want to live your life

Motivation, what gets you out of bed

10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon





Managers choice, rules or limits?

22 09 2006

I found myself in strong disagreement to this post on Lifehack.org, Reining in the Rule Breakers.

I understand the need for policies and rules to insure employee safety. This post might be appropriate for those situations. It also might be justified when attempting to standardize jobs and activities that require no creativity or individual decision making in order to function correctly. I sense the post was geared to managers dealing with these type of positions.

This approach toward strict adherence to the “rules”, just smacks of a 1930’s factory or grade school, and is the exact opposite of what I feel a workplace in 2006 requires to remain creative, enthusiastic and productive.

I do think it’s important to define limits. Very different from rules. Limits give maximum or minimum boundaries, but do not bind individuals into procedures and don’t stifle creativity.

It is important to define goals and objectives, basic coordinated procedures and time limits. Allow the team, organization or individual to find the best path to the goal. Before you scream chaos and anarchy, understand that standard operating procedures and existing policies will normally be the jumping off point for most of the organization. Any changes that occur to those procedures will often be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Focus your energy and your people on objectives and not on blindly following the rules.

Related Links

Successful managers should be breaking the rules

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?





10 reasons why people hire a business consultant

7 09 2006

Business consultants are an important part of our business culture. We have discovered that hiring consultants and outside experts can save us time and money. It also can increase our competitiveness and professionalism.

Consultants work best for those organizations or individuals who know what they are seeking and have clearly defined projects or objectives.

The following list provides 10 reasons why you might want to hire a business consultant.

10 reasons why business consultants are hired:

  • To provide a “short-cut” to know-how, knowledge and information that does not exist in the organization
  • To provide a professional service that does not exist in the organization, or that is needed for a specified period of time
  • To provide solutions to specific challenges and situations
  • To validate ideas that have already been created in the organization
  • To analyze, diagnose or criticize (constructively)
  • To facilitate the search for ideas and solutions with existing team members
  • To facilitate, create and implement methodologies and systems that enhance efficiency and organization
  • To access a network of business or government contacts
  • To bring in an experienced “outsiders” evaluation and point of view
  • To present, teach or implement “new” business ideas and procedures

Sept. 8, 2006 – Just found this at HorsePigCow, good ideas and comments about the role of the consultant, their value and why people tend de-value their role. The Value of Consultants

Related Link

The clients I don’t want





10 Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

24 08 2006

To complement my list of 10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon (Link), here are some of the activities that should be avoided on Friday afternoons.

Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

  1. Initiate a major project
  2. Schedule any type of meeting or seminar with customers or employees
  3. Give an employee review
  4. Make important strategic business decisions
  5. Ask people to work extra hours
  6. Give bad news to the office, your team or co-workers
  7. Raise your rates or product prices
  8. Obsess about or relive any failures that occurred during the week
  9. Go out for a 3 martini lunch and come back to the office complaining
  10. Give the boss an ultimatum or try and force a decision

Related Link

10 things you should do on Friday afternoon





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.