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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Great International Business Trip Results

16 10 2006

In any international relationship communication and understanding are critical for success.

Problems created by; language, stereotypes, misinformation, lack of information, and cultural misunderstandings combine with normal business problems to create a complicated scenario for anyone involved in international relationships and global business.

Prepare your international meetings and business presentations using the following questions as a guide to organize your ideas and focus on actions that will produce positive results for everyone involved.

6 Questions – Create Great International Business Trip Results

  1. What does this organization know about me, my company and my country?
  2. What do they think they know about me?
  3. What can I tell them that they do not know?
  4. What do I know about my international partner, culture and country?
  5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country?
  6. What can they tell me that I do not know?

1. What does this organization know about me and my company. When you walk in the room an opinion has already been formed about you, your organization, and your ability to perform in the future. These ideas are based upon facts, information and past experience.

  • What has been the history of our relationship in their country?
  • Who has been involved in our mutual business, and why?
  • What promises have been made and kept by both?
  • What promises have been made and not delivered upon?
  • What have the major problems and success been in the past?
  • Press and media, our organizations promotional material.

2. What do they think they know about me. Clarifying the unknowns or presumed realities in a relationship is crucial to success. These ideas may be very damaging and limit your ability to trust one another. What stereotypical behaviour can you avoid or prevent? What can you clarify or refute through information or actions?

  • Behaviour and reacts based upon past experience with your organization.
  • Rumour and innuendo, press and media reports.
  • Negotiation styles.
  • Business objectives.
  • Behaviour, goals and methods of doing business based upon country and cultural stereotypes.

3. What can I tell them that they do not know. Today’s business world requires trust, information and solutions. Reinforcing your need to work with your international partner, providing important information or solutions, and clarifying misunderstandings can only help the relationship.

  • Clarify or destroy cultural stereotypes.
  • Clarify business objectives and why they are important in order to reach these objectives.
  • Provide solutions and alternatives to existing situations and challenges.
  • Provide information of value for their business and strategy.
  • Clearly identify current or potential business problems.
  • Predict and have answers ready for their questions.

4. What do I know about my International partner, culture and country? What do I know is true and not innuendo or interpretation? The numbers, facts, information, agreements and past performance history of the business. Information about the country and the business culture.

5. What do I think I know about this business, culture and country? What preconceived ideas and stereotypes are you working with? What are you assuming and what has been proven?

6. What can they tell me that I do not know? What questions do you need to ask in order to verify information or create plans. What pieces of your information puzzle are missing? This is the time to get your questions answered, what are they?

Related Links

Cultural misunderstanding it can happen to you

Stereotypes and global business

Create great international business relationships

16 Essential questions – the international business traveller’s quiz

Lessons in international business





Analyze and Plan using 7 simple questions

3 10 2006

Who – What – When – Where – Why – How – How much

Project management, organizing a team, writing a business plan, creating strategies, planning meetings, running day to day operations, general analysis and problem solving can be facilitated and improved by using a simple application of 7 basic questions.

The application of the standard reporters’ questions of who, what, when, where, how and how much to a specific situation will help organize the process of analysis and planning.

In order for this system to work, all the questions and answers should be written down. You’ll be building a visual map while defining the objectives, tools, resources, bottlenecks, time limits and chronologies of the problem. It will become clear what the real goals are, what is required, what is missing, who should be involved and when the tasks should be accomplished.

Who – Who is or will be affected by the decision or process? Who are the participants? Who will be involved or affected in some way by the project?

What – What are the objectives and desired results? What is the problem or challenge? What are the options available? What tools are required?

When – When is this supposed to happen? Define the deadlines, time limits and chronologies.

Where – Where is it going to happen? The physical place or space should be defined and examined.

Why – Why are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way or by this procedure? Why is it occurring?

How – How are we going to do it? The mechanisms, requirements, and processes needed in order to achieve the goal.

How much – How much is it going to cost?

Example – You are asked to give a speech on the sales results in Mexico for the last quarter for the upcoming Board of Directors meeting on January 10.

Who – The audience is the Board of Directors. The sales department, marketing, logistics and finance departments have the numbers and explanations of the results. Who is responsible for the agenda, audiovisual set up, room reservations? Are any other members of the company required to attend the presentation? You are the project leader and responsible party for the presentation.

What – The presentation is directed at the Board of Directors, they want to hear about results, expectations and strategies of the sales in Mexico. What questions will they ask, what aspects of the business will be of interest or concern? What information is important?

When – The meeting is January 10. You’ll need all the pertinent sales information by what date? It has be polished into a concise presentation by what date?

Where – The meeting will be held where? How big is the room, what equipment will be required for the presentation.

Why – Why do they want to review this information, is there a problem, is it routine? Why me?

How – Will you give a visual media presentation along with documents? What graphics will you show? Will you be the only speaker? Will the presentation style be serious, upbeat, creative or different from other presentations?

How much – Do you have a budget for the presentation and required materials? Do you have to fly in the Mexican sales representative to be present at the meeting? Do you have to rent equipment, hire caterers or provide refreshments or coffee service?

Related Links

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

9 steps to better decisions





Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits?

2 10 2006

Everyone wants to be in charge. Being the leader seems to be a universal goal of most people working today.

Do you really want the job, or just the title and benefits?

A leadership position requires the use of many abilities and skills which most of us do not have, or do not have fully developed. It requires sacrifice and discipline. A leaders life is filled with decisions that are not black and white.

It’s all about people, motivating, directing, and evaluating, listening and learning with them.

A leader is often lonely, but never alone. Highly criticized and analyzed by their own team and by outsiders. Must be flexible and adaptable, and at the same time firm and unwilling to compromise.

Are you ready for the job?

Guide vs. Signpost. Do you enjoying pointing people in the right direction, telling them where to go? This is not leadership. A signpost points the way, offers no resources or plan and no strategies on how to get there.

Leading others is far different from pointing the way. Leaders take responsibility for everything that happens during the journey, they prepare strategic and contingency plans, provide resources, and keep their people motivated and on the right road.

Teaching vs. Criticism. Able to see the flaws in others, their work and their results? The ability to find flaws is important only if you use these opportunities to teach others how to prevent or improve their performance or results. Pointing out flaws and errors for any other reason is not part of the leadership function.

Coaching vs. supervision. Telling others exactly what to do, and how to do it, is part of a supervisory role, not a leadership position. Leaders are coaches, they convince others to create and embrace goals and objectives, and to use approved systems and methods in order to achieve them.

Fair compensation vs. jackpot rewards. Do you think leaders and managers make a lot of money for doing nothing? Leadership demands personal responsibility and acceptance of risk. No one gets into a leadership position without sacrifice of some sort. These qualities are paid for and compensated with higher salaries and often perks and privileges different from the other members of the organization. It is compensation well earned, and the entire organization should understand this. It should never be looked upon as a jackpot, or undeserved compensation. If the organization does not view it this way, it’s time to modify the compensation packages or get a leader in place that leads and earns the respect and support of the others organization members.

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

What defines an exceptional leader

Leadership by default





Leadership – who do you want to lead?

27 09 2006

One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you. ~Dennis A. Peer

The semi-mystical mix of qualities, attitudes and behaviours that make or define a leader will provide plenty of material for business writers for years to come. The focus is often on what makes the person a leader or what actions define a leader.

How about looking at the situation from another point of view.

What kind of followers or team do you want to lead?

Are you seeking a group that can be easily manipulated and accept your commands without questioning your authority?

Do you want to lead a team of highly independent people who might question the goals and direction of the group at any time?

Do your followers believe you are the smartest, toughest or most courageous in the group?

What kind of people, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours would your “ideal” followers have, and why?

Determining the qualities of the group you desire to lead, can provide insights into your leadership style and goals. It will give some definition of what leadership qualities you expect to project to others, and what qualities or responses you expect to see reflected in your team, and their behaviours.

Not many of us will be leaders; and even those who are leaders must also be followers much of the time. This is the crucial role. Followers judge leaders. Only if the leaders pass that test do they have any impact. The potential followers, if their judgment is poor, have judged themselves. If the leader takes his or her followers to the goal, to great achievements, it is because the followers were capable of that kind of response.” –Garry Wills in Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership

Related Links

What Defines an Exceptional Leader

Leadership by default

There are no new management and leadership ideas





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?





Successful managers should be breaking the rules

14 09 2006

Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something. Thomas A. Edison

I’ve found the most successful and exciting environments to work, study or play in are those with “no rules”. Environments that are open and flexible and not strictly controlled with things you can’t do. It’s exciting to be in these situations, inspiring, sometimes a bit scary, but always memorable.

Rosa Say has a brilliant read for all managers about how the use (or abuse) of rules often limits our creativity and enthusiasm. What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

  • “No rules” requires clear objectives and goals.
  • “No rules” requires planning.
  • “No rules” requires discipline and commitment.
  • “No rules” demands responsibility for actions and outcomes.
  • “No rules” is about inventing process. Creating and forming the process required, or desired, in order to get the job done and reach the objective.
  • “No rules” is about allowing creativity and innovation into every decision that brings us closer to our objectives.
  • “No rules” is about questioning the status quo in order to explore new and different solutions and methods.
  • “No rules” is about accepting and integrating new ideas.
  • “No rules” is about tolerance and examination of new concepts.
  • “No rules” is about getting excited and energized by every life or work experience.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. George S. Patton

It is good to obey all the rules when you’re young, so you’ll have the strength to break them when you’re old. Mark Twain

Related Links

What are the rules? Hopefully, none.

5 ways to promote creative thinking and idea generation

Is your boss a prison warden or party host?