Last week we were trying to make a systems decision. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty details of batteries and connected vehicle data, because what went down can happen in any department at any organization.
Frustration. Time-delays. Conflict. And all the associated thoughts and emotions were influencing our ability to get results.
Has this happened to you before? You’re frustrated at work because something is taking much longer to get done, or it’s taking substantially longer to reach alignment on a proposal than you know it should?
As much as we may hate it, this happens often in the business world.
Well-meaning processes and procedures have been put in place by organizations with good intent about the “right ways” to run a business–but there’s always more than one right way.
Processes are put in place for efficiency, but when they become black, white, and rigid, they usually lead to increased bureaucracy and therefore inefficiency.
Not to mention, many of the times the people who are managing the process haven’t always lived through the experience or been exposed to the bigger picture.
Then you overlay the fact that the world is changing exponentially and that a process that might have worked last year is no longer valid for the current business environment and the challenges that are arising today.
It’s a time bomb for frustration.
So how can this best be managed? Especially when you are working at a company that’s been in business for 100+ years that has process after process after process…
Here’s how we turned it around last week…
Start with Awareness
I hadn’t yet been involved when two people on the team called me to tell me about their frustration with what was happening – they felt they kept repeating the same message and asked who was the right executive to make the decision. I rolled up my sleeves to dig into the details…
Assess the stakeholders
The team had been taking this to the forum that discussed customer features because that’s all that existed. It was like comparing apples and oranges. No wonder they were frustrated!
Determine the Driver
I ensured I was up-to-speed on the latest and also pushed the team to have back-up plans for getting the data. Some of the other paths weren’t as ideal but could be used as an interim action until the “real” fix could be implemented if the timing was an issue.
Act with Accountability
I called two key people and it took only 20 minutes of conversation with each for me to clearly see what was happening. With some back and forth dialogue and questions, we were able to agree who the right executive was to evaluate this data request. Success!
That executive “took the ball” and we are creating a new methodology to manage these new data requests.
Long-term tip for flexibility: One thing that I do every year in January when I am creating objectives and goals for myself as well as my team is to schedule a deep dive discussion with my direct reports as well as key interfaces.
We start out by discussing high-level generalities about the changing environment of the company, technology and the world in general. We write out on a whiteboard our top 5-7 key actions/interfaces/workstreams, using last year’s objectives as a starting point.
We walk through each one, asking ourselves what went right this past year, what went wrong and noting what changes have occurred. We discuss how this process or objective could change/evolve as well as what our goals for this objective should be for the year. We outline the action items that we will focus on for the year to fix the problems or difficulties of the past.
It’s all about being more efficient in business and a drive for results. This methodology consciously focuses on process evolution, which allows us to be increasingly flexible year over year.
Companies in today’s world MUST learn to be more flexible with their processes and procedures because no one can predict what the business environment will be even a year or two from now.
Adaptability and flexibility are key enablers for businesses that will succeed in the future. Do you want your company to be the next Kodak…? I’m guessing not. Then it’s time to get flexible.