What’s The Problem?

Lightbulb on blackboard idea bubble

Some days it’s more like “what’s NOT the problem”! Of the many hats we wear daily as owner/operators or managers, the Problem Solver hat often occupies much more of our time than needed.

Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have the right associates in the right positions?
  • Are my associates adequately trained considering their tenure?
  • Have I empowered them to make decisions within the boundaries set for them?
  • Have I created a culture in which my associates aren’t afraid to make a mistake (customer service withstanding) without fear of reprimand?
  • Can my business function smoothly if I am unreachable for one week?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then you my friend are the problem. As your business grows, so does your staff, inventory, customer base, and sometimes your facility. When you feel that you must make all the decisions, or at least be in control of the outcome of decisions, you become a bottleneck that slows associate productivity and stifles associate growth.

There are problems that only you can solve; decisions that only you can make. Those belong to you and no one else. But train your associates to handle the problems that are inherent to their position, establish the boundaries within which they can freely make decisions. Then provide routine follow up.

As owners or managers, we can get in our own way and make things more difficult than necessary. I can’t speak to their validity, but I want to close with some humorous but very real examples of how management can allow a problem to become much larger than the solution.

In the early days of our space program, NASA discovered normal pens would not work in space. They subsequently spent years and millions of dollars developing a pen that would write on any surface under any condition. Russia simply chose to use pencils.

A rather sizable Japanese cosmetic company received a consumer complaint that a couple of the boxes purchased contained no product (which happened to be bars of soap) inside the box. Management demanded immediate action and the engineers implemented a high definition X-ray machine monitored by two associates, to see inside the boxes as they passed by on the line.

A rank and file associate questioned the need for such an elaborate and time-consuming process and asked he could have a crack at it. He returned with a pedestal fan, plugged it in, faced it towards the production line and turned it on high. A $40 fan accomplished the same thing as the X-Ray machine for a fraction of the cost. I can list a few examples that relate directly to your business, but you get the idea…

  • Train your associates
  • Establish boundaries
  • Empower your associates
  • Get out of their way and allow them to do their job, so you have the time to do yours!

Training and empowering your associates will!

-Eddie Hight, June 8th, 2018