Imagine you have a car and you suddenly start to have these problems:
1) The engine is not starting
2) The air conditioning is not working
3) The radio speakers sound distorted
Your friends will think you are out of your mind if they see you working on the handbrake. What they don’t know is that if you fix your handbrake, the car will not roll into your swimming pool; and then you won’t have all the problems caused by water.
I came across this insightful (albeit frivolous) example when I was researching the Theory of Constraints.
So what does this have to do with business?
The theory of constraints is all about investing (upfront) in the effort to discovering the core problem (or bottleneck) behind a series of business problems that do not look related at first sight. It is usually not an easy task, but the rewards are worth it…
In my e-book, Hands Off: Why employing more people will not give you more time, I listed a host of typical energy-sapping firefighting activities that many business owners face on a daily basis. They range from customer relations, to staff issues, to quality of service, not to mention the constant (often unnecessary) demand on their time. No wonder they feel they are running a madhouse.
If you try to solve each of these problems at face value, you are likely to find yourself discussing with a range of advisers in sales, marketing, human resources, time management, etc. And what is ironic, their well-intentioned solutions may easily backfire.
Let’s talk about marketing…
Imagine the marketing consultant delivers a new program and your sales suddenly double. What does this mean if there is still a bottleneck and you really cannot handle one more phone call even if it will bring income! In this case, a successful marketing campaign can be the most damaging announcement to the world that, while you may deliver quality work, your service is unreliable.
Let’s talk about recruiting talent…
Why is hiring the best people not usually the answer to working less in your business?
The answer is in a well-known thought experiment: What do you get if you try to build the world’s greatest car by assembling the world’s greatest car parts?
Surgeon and author Atul Gawande could not put it better when he quoted his friend: “What we get, of course, is nothing close to a great car, we get a pile of very expensive junk.”
Now what do you get if you hire the best people, put them in great offices, give them the fastest computers, pay them high salaries, etc?
The core problem…
In reality these marketing/sales/people ‘problems” remain symptoms of the deeper (mostly overlooked) problem: Lack of systems. Systems are the fix (or the handbrake) to the madness.