22 Apr Decide to Fix the Problem
Companies are a collection of humans and humans make the business decisions. Leaders are human. So, when faced with a business decision, leaders use a lot more than logic to make those decisions. Therefore, sometimes instead of solving a problem, the problem actually becomes more complex.
This applies to big and small decisions, from perks and dress codes to financial policies, people, investments and of course strategy. So, when faced with an obvious gap, inaction is often more common than action. I see it with my clients and I experienced it many times through my career.
a small fix can solve a big problem
I worked for a company that prided itself on people engagement and culture. They did great work and attracted top talent. Through sophisticated methods and general feedback loops a big gap was constantly exposed – their technology sucked. For employees, many good things subverted the glaringly bad, and perhaps that pushed the problem to the bottom of the pile. While it did not significantly reduce performance, it had a negative impact. Fixing the simple problem would have a highly positive business impact, yet it boiled up to complexity whenever discussed for action. Here is what happens:
A) Problem is known. Solution is simple with and results immediate.
B) The ‘human filter’ determines the real priority (the executive’s desire) and now the excuses pile up often making it too complex.
In this case, better tech was simply licensing and laptops. How it built up to a decision not to act was typical: The tech team talked about control and logistics; the accounting group looked at cost; HR minimized it with a list all the other ‘perks;’ and functional leaders caved to the execs. This all added up to not solving the clear #1 employee issue, which was simple. For the skeptics, let me quickly lay out the solution that would’ve answered the excuses: A) An employee purchase and payback program could be launched where anyone wanting better equipment could go buy it and be reimbursed over a period of 2 years in equal payments as a payroll expense. Then they own it. No capital expenditure for the company, no write downs and amortization, no inventory and disposition. The most recent of the old equipment could be distributed to the opt-out employees and a school/charity could have benefitted. B) The machines get imaged remotely and still adhere to corporate standards and policies – just because the IT team hadn’t done it wasn’t a reason to not do it. C) All the functional leaders could have come up with a list of “other” lower value perks to eliminate which would have paid for the right licensing.
Simple solutions become complex through the lens of the team of humans. A clear, singular, high impact problem becomes a web of associated problems and therefore does not get addressed until some large overhaul is contemplated for a long time, and usually only partially addressed as it again loses priority.
This was an equipment/tool example, but these barriers are common to organizations in many aspects of the their business. Recently, a client wanted to get their new offering pushed hard into the market, immediately! They were struggling to get the field teams’ engagement. There certainly were several important areas to be addressed, making sure it was applied in a lasting and systemic manor. We crafted all of that into a plan. It had to include the client value-prop and messaging, the fit with sales process and client plans, CRM and reporting, SME support, etc. All of this could be rolled out in less than 100 days. But, the client wanted “this quarter” impact – so the quick solution was simply change the comp plan right now while all the other work was underway.
Single problem – single decision – simple fix. And, you guessed it…they decided to wait the 100 days, address every aspect an all up “leap” rather than break out the steps. The comp will be part of the ‘all-up’ longer-term solution.
Taking small steps accelerates your business. Pick the issues that can be solved and make the decision.