Step #1 of Solving a Business Dilemma

A lack of understanding concerning the market, the internal environment, or the ramifications problem itself will all lead to expensive and difficult mistakes.
From the perspective of executive management, there are many ways to stumble when looking at a business problem for the first time.

Rather than leaping forward without understanding the underlying issues, or stalling a decision because there’s no process in place to help the business in situations like this, there is a risk when addressing a thorny business issue.  Logistics, politics, revenue streams and reputation management all have significant roles in handling a critical situation.  There are plenty of factors for an executive to consider.

Fortunately, breaking into the guts of a business problem and selecting the right approach is probably easier for most businesses today, simply because there are so many great models on how not to do it.  Watching the collapse of organizations during the financial crisis due to internal mismanagement, or following the broadcasts of structural limitations that allowed valuable information to be leaked online, or just seeing the fading market presence and value in companies that were previously “somebody” has given more than one manager a field MBA.  The value in decomposing a business problem is the potential higher quality resolution.  To start breaking down the problem, define the symptom that’s presenting at the moment.  Is it a financial issue, or a regulatory issue?  Are personnel problems impacting productivity?  Does it seem that there are operational glitches regularly that produce lower quality results?

Knowing that, in this first stage, the symptom is what’s being examined and not the disease, or larger problem, as a whole, can help a manager make clearer decisions about where to go next.  For instance, if it appears from reviewing some reports that there’s a financial irregularity, the next step would be to find out how, and by whom, those reports were produced.  There’s no shame in asking for clarification, and seeking to understand is an underlying principle of all of the current management methodologies.  

Once the information about the report’s pedigree has been obtained, the manager should determine if the risk is in the data (ie, business intelligence issue or breach), or if the risk is in the financial side (ie, fraud or embezzlement), or if the risk is more of a client-facing problem (ie, billing issue or outstanding AR).  Once the problem is defined by at least these two characteristics – the symptom, and the cause – then it is time to bring in the process management methodology that has the best fit with the organization.

Launching a team to ramp up the Agile, LEAN, Six Sigma or other methodology, and to see the investigation of the process problem all the way through, is the last step the senior executive should be directly involved with.  Allowing the team appointed to do the task thoroughly and without great intervention from senior management will help ensure a better level of adoption for your solution, among other benefits


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