Addressing Business Problems
As business owners, we are always aware that there are problems we should be addressing in various areas of our business, but often we confine them to the too hard basket, or turn a blind eye to them, in the vain hope that they will somehow just go away, or someone else will resolve them for us.
The Cause of the Problem
The chief reason for this particular mindset is not an unwillingness to deal with all of the problems of running and operating a business, but rather the propensity of small business owners to focus on today’s most urgent problem, as well as older problems that have recently assumed a greater level of importance, due to the damage they are now inflicting on the business.
The Downside of this Behaviour
The downside of this understandable approach is that as a business owner you can get blind-sided by what was initially a small problem, but which has festered out of sight and mind, to become a much bigger problem that is about to bite you when you least expect it.
Addressing the Problem
So how do you break the cycle and address problems as they arise, and when they are easier to resolve, rather than just putting them aside to deal with later?
The following six step process may assist you to address the tendency to ignore problems until it is too late, and the damage has been done.
1) Identify it is real and then quantify the extent and rate severity.
The fact that someone says something is a problem doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. It may actually be a symptom of an unidentified larger problem, or a consequence of a misunderstanding, or a deficit of knowledge, about the relevant subject matter.
Once you have established the problem is real, you need to quickly quantify the extent of the problem, and rate its severity relative to your business operations. This will allow you to establish an order of priority in taking action to resolve a series of problems if you have more than one to address.
2) List the key benefits of solving the problem immediately.
Look at the problem from the perspectives of; the business, the shareholders, employees, external stakeholders, customers/clients etc, and list what the key benefits of resolving the identified problem will be for each group. This exercise should be quick and should also determine how widespread the effects of not solving the problem will be. It will also assist in pointing you in the right direction for Step 3.
3) Collect and evaluate a range of potential solutions.
Don’t just rely on your own intuition or knowledge when considering potential solutions or you may miss more effective or more efficient solution that are readily available.
Share the problem around and canvas, as widely as you deem necessary relative to the severity of the problem, for suggestions on how it can be effectively and efficiently resolved.
Allow only a short period for feedback, and as soon as this expires, evaluate the suggestions and rank them from the best to the least attractive, in terms of resolving the problem quickly.
4. Evaluate the chosen suggestions against the tools and resources available to implement.
What may have been rated the best solution could, on closer examination of what tools and resources will be required to implement it, be relegated down the list of preferred solutions.
It is therefore necessary to carefully evaluate each suggested solution, so that the one to be proceeded with can actually be successfully implemented.
5) Sell the chosen solution to those who will implement it.
6) Check implementation is complete and validate that problem is now buried.
This final step is critical. On the completion date check with those charged with implementing the solution to ascertain that full implementation is completed, and then validate the outcome is as expected.
As part of this process always ask, if in implementing this solution whether any other problems were identified, which now should be addressed. You will be surprised how often resolving one problem assists in identifying others that also need to be addressed.
Questions for Self Analysis
Are you a business owner or manager who sweeps problems under the carpet rather than dealing with them when they arise?
Do you see the value in using this six step process to ensure problems do not fester in your business?
What will you do when you next become aware of a small problem in your business?