Don’t Let a Challenge Stall Your Business:
Five Tips for Staying on Track
By Lonnie Pacelli
challenges, your business would cease to exist. After all, you began
your business in response to a need and you continue it for the same
reason. However, just as your customers’ needs change over time, so
do your business’s. Your competition improves, technology changes,
and your employees come and go. In order to stay in the game for the
long haul, you need to find new ways to satisfy your customers,
improve the efficiency of your processes, and maintain a healthy
strive to accomplish your goals, you will encounter challenges along
the way. Sometimes the challenges are numerous and you don’t know
where to start. All the problems compete with each other and you must
determine which one is the most pressing, which steps you need to take
to solve it, and how to get your staff to support your efforts.
recognize that problems come in two forms. They can be either a
barrier to accomplishing something (as in, “we can’t possibly
produce 20,000 units per week with our existing equipment”) or as an
opportunity to do something better (“we need to reduce the cost of
processing purchase orders by 20%”). All challenges share the common
theme of a desire to do something tomorrow that can’t be achieved
today. The easy part is identifying the challenge. The trickier part
is coming up with the detailed solution.
start to work on a solution, you need to make sure everyone is “on
board” with you. Often, your colleagues (especially from other
departments) disagree on what exactly is and isn’t a problem,
can’t identify the steps to solve the problem, or don’t know when
the problem will “end.” To ensure that the right challenges are
tackled and logically solved, follow these tips so you can cross off
your problems one by one.
Tip #1: Have a clearly
articulated mission statement: “We need
to reduce costs” is not a good mission statement. It is too vague to
execute because it is unclear what exactly the cause of the problem is
and when it will be completed. Create a mission statement for each
challenge that is clear and realistic. Include what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done, and what measure will be used to evaluate
its success. A good mission statement might look something like this:
“We need to reduce the cost of shipping orders by 50% by July 1st,
while ensuring that the orders are delivered promptly—100% of the
time.” This statement encompasses all the necessary elements of a
good mission statement and gives your staff a clear goal.
Tip #2: Have a consistent
understanding of the problem: When
solving a large problem that involves multiple departments, you often
find that each group has their own agenda. They may not even agree
that there is a problem. To get everyone’s support, have them all
involved in developing the mission statement. Don’t be surprised if
you find “resisters” who don’t want to solve the problem because
it means a significant change to the status quo. Include everyone who
will be involved in the project, even if they initially resist. You
can usually get the support of resisters if they contribute their two
cents to the mission statement. They will feel included as part of the
solution from the beginning.
Tip #3: Make sure your problem is
the most pressing one to solve: In
business, there is often more than just one looming problem. How do
you decide which problem gets solved first and which gets put on the
back burner? Money, time, and staff often limit the number of problems
you can solve at any given time. Instead of haphazardly picking a
challenge, be methodical. Once a year, hold a staff meeting and create
a “wish list” spreadsheet of all the problems that exist. For each
entry, name the problem, indicate the resources it will require, the
expected outcome, and the duration of the project. Then rank your
entries by their urgency. Now you can easily determine which ones are
realistic to tackle this year. Remember that priorities change:
projects that were originally put on the back burner can
suddenly become fires that need to be extinguished immediately. Review
the list at least quarterly to ensure that each problem is still in
the right slot on your priority list.
Tip #4: Keep your mission
statement prominently displayed: Why spend
the time and energy on a mission statement when you just put it in a
drawer to collect dust? Make sure each member of your staff has a copy
of the mission statement. Enlarge it and hang it in your office. Each
time you hold a meeting about the problem, have your mission statement
handy and remind the group of the mission when things start getting
awry. Eventually you and your staff should have it memorized. The
mission statement is crucial to achieving your goal, so make sure
everyone involved has the mission statement embedded in their brain.
Tip #5: Don’t afraid to change
the mission: Problems
aren’t static; they can often change in complexity and
importance—they may change from a minor to major one or vice versa.
Components of the problem might change, or the departments that need
to work on it. When the problem changes, change your mission statement
accordingly. Just make sure you involve the team in setting the new
mission, defining the revised timeframe, and re-allocating resources.
Start Solving Now:
way to tackle challenges is head-on. Don’t let progress stall
because you don’t want to admit your business has some problems.
Your competition likely has as many (or more) than you. Take action.
Put your challenges in writing. Decide which one needs to be solved
first and dedicate the appropriate staff, hours, and financial
resources to implement the solution. Make sure your staff can rattle
off the mission statement and that every activity supports the desired
goal. Don’t be afraid to change as circumstances require. Focus on
the detailed solution, and before you know it, you’ll be able to
cross the first problem off your list.
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