Identifying Correct Problems

Every business has their own unique problems to address. I can easily say that the largest, most important opportunity exists in identifying the CORRECT problems to address.

Running closely behind this is understanding the full extent, reach, impact, or cost of the problem; only to be followed by creating an adequate budget or plan to address it.

In my consulting role, I get to hear a lot of problems, challenges, difficulties, and struggles. This is not a complaint whatsoever as it plays well to my strategic, forward-thinking, idea-generating strengths and keeps me engaged in my work. I find an outsider’s perspective to asking difficult questions and checking assumptions is incredibly efficient at pinpointing major challenges. It also helps to minimize blame and emotion – just stick to the facts of where you are as compared to where you want to be.

As you begin identifying problems; you’ll likely run into the following distractions:

Lack of budget; lack of time; lack of talent; don’t know what to do next; lagging sales; low conversions; slow pipeline; anything technology-related and countless more.

These are NEVER the correct problem. Read that again. They are important, but not the actual problem. They are, however, indicators of the problem. Trying to fix the distractions is a never ending cycle of shifting resources from one fire to another without fully extinguishing any of them. Keep digging and you’ll soon arrive at the source.

Fair warning; the source of all the problems is usually the owners/leaders. It often comes down to a disconnect between goals, purpose, vision; and the messaging, audience selection, and/or structure design. 

I freely admit that this is a bitter pill to swallow. Like taking vitamins or eating plenty of vegetables; the benefits far outweigh the temporary unpleasantness.

The Simple Approach

Whether it is a desire to show how smart, talented, or gifted we are (ego and collective ego), or not taking the time to make sure we understand it to the very core; we often make things more complex than they need to be.

Perhaps you’ll get some inspiration from the following quotes. This notion has been around for a long time.

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”  ~ Albert Einstein

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  ~ Hans Hofmann

Some things are naturally more complex and nuanced than others. But everything has its own base of simplicity. When we rush to market without a certain level of simplicity, we are plagued by struggles, challenges, and slow growth. When we invest the time into discovering and pushing this simplicity, efforts will be rewarded with ease of communication and the spread of ideas.

As we develop clarity about these disconnections, we can begin to see new opportunities for solutions that make significant and sustainable changes in our organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify the correct problems in and around your organization, connect with me here and mention ‘opportunities’ in the introduction.

Purpose Over Strategy

Strategies are incredibly powerful tools and it is nearly impossible to build a business without using more than a few of them. Since my earliest memories; I have been drawn to strategic thinking (how to get from here to there). Clients and audiences often hear me talk about how ludicrous it would be to construct a house or commercial property without a set of blueprints.

For as powerful as strategies are, too many business leaders depend on them and find too late that strategy alone will not be enough.

Here are a couple ways strategy falls short.

They are externally-driven.
Early in my sales career, I presented my products to a well-qualified prospect only to get the response that my prices were too high. In a presentation later that day, I started with lower-priced products and was told that my products were not of high enough quality. I felt confused because I was only given 2 strategies for talking about pricing, and BOTH seemed wrong!

Strategies are pre-planned responses to anticipated situations, but as this simple illustration depicts, they can easily incite less-than-stellar results by simply misunderstanding or falsely interpreting a situation.

They are temporary.
Because they are situationally dependent, each strategy has a life expectancy based on the relevancy of the situation. From the 1960s through 1990s, brands had little problem growing by investing almost exclusively into TV advertising. For a while, it worked well because the exposure paved the way for consumer purchases as well as building distribution networks. However we see today that this very same strategy is significantly less effective

Each year, thousands of new books are published based on the strategies that worked extremely well for someone. Many of them spike on must-have lists and rack up quick revenues, but they rarely last very long because the content itself becomes dated. It is difficult for me to say, but even time-honored classics like “How To Win Friends And Influence People” will one day be rendered obsolete.

They are reflections of History.
Typically strategies are uncovered by looking at what was done only after a desirable result has been achieved. Once something good has happened, we review the preceding events and assume a causal relationship. They are far too rigid to predict future outcomes because every market is constantly evolving and in a state of relative unpredictability. This makes it difficult to predict the impact of any particular strategy with any certainty – especially when presented with new information, situations, or opportunities.

Great leaders in sports as well as business understand that flexibility is the key, but strategies often don’t account for the overwhelming passion and ingenuity of an underdog who sees opportunities to change the rules.

This is precisely when the power of PURPOSE comes into play.

Purpose helps to focus our creative talents, activities, and strategies towards a common end. A well-crafted purpose can supply individuals with a lifetime supply of inspiration that crosses multiple platforms and/or industries. One of my favorite examples is Bill Gates.

In the early 1970s Bill Gates and a couple friends knew that they could leverage their understanding of computers (at the time) to help people benefit from the power of computers. They started a company with a formal mission to “enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.” I find it difficult for anyone to claim they have not lived up to this commitment.

As Bill Gates formally stepped out of the daily operations and into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; he continues to live the same purpose. Their mission reads; “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” Rather than using computer power, he is seeking to eliminate the diseases and challenges that occupy so much time and energy of people around the world.

The reason purpose is so powerful is because it is the source of deep convictions that inspires creative activity through a framework.

In the Gates example, we can clearly see how many of the Microsoft flagship products (like DOS, Windows, and Office) helped people accomplish more tasks in less time – leading towards their full potential. This idea of purpose provided inspiration for employees of the company as well as making it easier for tens of millions of authors to publish their ideas or communicate more effectively.

However when they chased market trends and developed an Mp3 player as well as a smart phone, they departed from their purpose and were met with unfavorable results.

Rather than following strategies of others; invest the time to uncover your internal purpose and you will be rewarded with a lifetime of inspiration and fulfilling work.

Business Growth Under The Threat Of Obsolescence

Perhaps the biggest threat to business growth it not in failing, but in becoming obsolete – no longer in use or only a fading memory of days past.

Thanks to the ever-increasing speed of technology, dozens of entire industries (not just companies within an industry) have already or nearly given in to this adversary. I’m sure many of us here remember how fax machines and their slick-thermal imaging paper rolls were once a business necessity. Thanks to advances in connectivity, email capacities, cloud-based file sharing, and the like; these machines are no longer relevant for most of us. These same advances were also the catalyst to the recorded music industry as well as aspects of USPS.

In the title image; you will see a graph indicating volume of first-class letters that USPS delivered from 1926-2015. 2002 was the pivotal year that started the decline. Fortunately for them, while 1st class mail sharply declined, packages from e-commerce companies have increased.

Is the idea of a University Degree next?

More and more people today subscribe to the notion that Universities are already, or well on their way, to becoming obsolete because their structures cannot keep pace with the speed of information and innovation. They say that the majority of our education systems cannot effectively teach the information that is relevant today.

Here, Grant Cardone claims that 4000 Universities Are Soon To Be Obsolete.

Back in 2009, David Wiley, a university professor, predicted that Universities Will Be Irrelevant by 2020.

 

Is YOUR operational model becoming obsolete?

My guess is that this is closer to the case than not. For decades, employee engagement has been low – disastrously low. This, despite the abundant amount of information available on the benefits of high engagement, not to mention how much impact a small shift towards improving this will make.

It wasn’t until I read this article published on Harvard Business Review’s HBR.com on 24 May that I made the complete connection.

Why John Deere Measures Employee Morale Every Two Weeks

What fascinated me was how much insight they got from asking one simple question every two weeks. “On a scale of 1-10; how do you feel about the value you were able to contribute in the last cycle?” What fascinated me the most was how this practice helped them to dramatically decrease the time and cost of bringing innovations to market. This coming from a company founded in 1837 that specializes in very durable farm and construction equipment.

What are YOU doing to keep obsolescence at bay?

The Most Important Department In A Business

If you were to gather together all the VPs, Executive staff, and Board of Directors of any business and ask their response to “What is the most important department in a business?”; you would likely hear a plethora of one-sided arguments by department heads claiming that either their respective department is most critical, or the one that directly feeds them (information, material, budget, etc.) is most critical.

While this might be considered a fun discussion, it would not likely bring any long-term benefit to the business. Rather than arguing about which department IS most important; I prefer to look at it from a different, more simple perspective.

What is the most important aspect of a bicycle? Is it the wheels/spokes/tires, steering/braking, pedals/chain/gears, the frame, or even the seat? It is quite easy to understand that these are ALL EQUALLY IMPORTANT!

More crucially, they are all interconnected.

The pedals/chain/gears are what turn energy into movement, while the wheels/spokes/tires are where the proverbial rubber meets the road. The steering/braking bring tremendous benefits of balance, control, and direction. While the frame gives the structure that holds everything together; it is all a waste without a proper seat.

To forgo any one of these ‘departments’ would result in something that might resemble, but could not be considered a bicycle.

Businesses need departments that specialize in marketing, sales, people, production, administration, accounting, financing, people, and more. Neither is most important as they are all equally important. Like a bicycle; disastrous results occur when they are not aligned within a proper framework or structure.

Keeping with the analogy, each of these departments will make their best contributions as they are tweaked and expertly maintained. Incorporating new concepts like social media marketing or data analytics is just like upgrading to newer components. These innovations make tremendous impact on a couple departments, but rarely induce organization-wide changes.

Whether you are riding a bicycle or running a business, it is important to remember to have fun, stay focused on why you are doing it, and share the joy with others.
(Please remember to wear your helmet.)

Incredibly Personal Business Relationships

This is about the best illustrated explanation I have ever seen. I would like to add Sales and Leadership to Geoff Welch’s explanation.

Truthfully, it has always been like this – impossible to separate customer service from marketing from sales from leadership. They are certainly not departments as they are hardly even different aspects of relationships between human beings. Trying to keep each of these in isolation only invites judgment, negative conflict, low quality, and poor interactions with the two most important groups of humans a business can have – employees and customers.

Now that you have a working model;
How are you going to change your business to prime it for growth?

In order to grow, 21st century businesses must find new ways to tap into the resources of both their employees and customers. It is not about coercing more effort, longer hours, or more repeat purchases. It is about connecting with them as human beings.

Customers can tell us who they are comparing for the purchase, and most importantly, why they are comparing. Purchasing decisions (business and personal) alike are made with emotions, and then justified through logic. Often it has more to do with their life and existing relationships than it has to do with your product or service.

Help them communicate the silent, subtle, immediate, and emotional reasons for the decisions and they will guide you to your next multi-billion offering.

Employees can tell you the best way to do their jobs. They can also tell you ways to make them happy and fully engaged. When they trust you and are given access to all information, they can (collectively and individually) solve any problem the business will ever face. What’s more, they will bring innovation after innovation to the company, help promote it with passion, and provide all the PR/publicity arsenal you need.

21st century business leaders know that each relationship is personal, intricate, and incredibly valuable. They strive to build quality relationships with their employees as they are the ones who have almost all the contact with customers.

 

* * * * *
david r frick is a business artist and the founder of SuccessVentures –
a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs
create opportunities for transformational growth.
 More info is
available 
at www.successventures.co or by following social feeds
here and twitter (@drfrick)