Houston, we have a problem…or do we?

Posted by: JustinFreeman on Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Guest Blog by Charlie Barton of Barton Consulting, LLC Those four words, “Houston, we have a problem,” have become part of our cultural language. We often use the phrase when we encounter an unforeseen problem. As small business owners and managers, how do we know when we have a problem? If we expect one thing and get something else, then we know we have a problem. Our (or our customer’s) expectation is the metric that we use to decide success or failure of a process. Take a moment to think about email spelling errors. How often have you used a spellchecker that confirmed that you spelled the word correctly, but it wasn’t the right word? Think: red (color) versus read (verb past tense). The meaning of what we wrote is now completely different! We are all acquainted with the term “firefighting.” Those are the big problems that disrupt our planned work. We must get whatever is broken fixed right now! These kinds of problems happen because there is no framework for getting something right the first time through. When we spend our day firefighting, we are unable to innovate and to create value for customers. Furthermore, the more firefighting we do the less delighted our customer becomes with our services and products. Problems make us uncomfortable. Problems also give us the opportunity to improve how we manage our businesses and ultimately delight our customers. Metrics, processes, and systems exist whether or not we have formally created or recognized them. Routines are really processes in disguise. Processes produce outcomes. We know how well we are doing when we have a way to measure outcomes. Yet, not all outcomes are equally important to our business success. What are the measures you are using to figure out if your processes are helping you meet your business goals?


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