Operational problems can exist for years, years and years. For example, onboarding of new employee. It’s not well prepared. So people come in, start new day, and they don’t have stuff like laptop work, keys or access. Or other problem like in planning. Planning of employees, capacity planning, or using a new software, implementation of a new software. Things really can stay in the company and you get used to it. Problems like mistakes or that it takes too much time. You get used to it.
Operational problems = pebbles in your shoes
I compare it with a very little, tiny little stone, very little pebble in your shoe when you walk. And sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t, but actually you just keep on walking. Although, you say, “Oh, I should stop for a while, take off my shoe and take out this very, very tiny little stone, and then I can walk again, and I feel well again.” So these problems in companies are like that. They can exist for a long, long time, and this becomes actually a way of working. It becomes very normal.
Avoid mistakes instead of correcting them
People even say that, “That’s my job to correct, for example, mistakes in registration, in administration,” although the admin department cannot invoice timely. First, they have to correct 100, 200 mistakes per week before they can finally create the invoice and send the invoice for payment. So it takes a lot of correction, takes a lot of extra manpower, extra costs, higher than required expenses, and they also have to wait and don’t have cashflow. Cash is not coming in because the invoice is not yet sent out. And people say, “Okay, that’s my job. That’s my job to correct mistakes.” No. No, it’s not your job. Mistakes should not be there. That should be avoided!
So the question is why such problems can exist, years after years. The companies that come to me, they really try to solve those problems and sometimes they even get a project team together, but it takes years and they don’t have solution. It takes years that they come together as a project team, and after a while they don’t know what they do, why they come together, what’s the situation, is the problem solved, or partially solved, or not. So I just wondered why. Why is that?
Why Your Project Has No End
Reason #1: No Method
There are a few reasons why they are not effective. First has to do with the method. In general, people do not learn any problem solving method at school. Nobody. Really not. I studied chemical engineering. I have a master of science degree in chemistry. After that, I done Master of Business Administration, MBA.
And I’ve hardly ever had any subject on how to solve operational problems, how to identify, how to analyze, and how to solve those operational problems. Again, like something takes too long, lead time is too long, the outcome is not predictable, mistakes are occurring, mistakes has to be corrected, and that kind of stuff. So number one, you need a method. Those companies that come in, they don’t have a method.
Reason #2: No clear roles
Secondly, the team they put on this problem are not well-trained and they do not have a clear role definition. So if I have a project team to solve, for example, planning problem, who should be in the team, and what is my role, and what is the role of the project leader, and how we can play our role. That’s important.
There might be a project leader but that’s it, in many cases, and he doesn’t know how to get his team from A to B, and he doesn’t know if he has the right team at all. So how do you get the right team together? That’s the second reason why companies are not effectively solving long-lasting problems.
Reason #3: No baseline
A third reason is that such problems, like mistakes in registration or problems with planning, are not well quantified. So such projects do not have a real clear key performance indicator that really shows how big is the problem. That’s one thing.
So they don’t have a baseline, they don’t have figures, data. Or they have many figures and data but they don’t know which one to use and how to use it. So using the data, using the facts to display or show or reveal the problem, how big is the problem, that’s another reason companies are not effectively solving long-lasting operational problems.
Reason #4: No schedule
The last reason is that they are not spending efficient time and sufficient time, sufficient quantity of time on solving these problems. Or, they don’t have this project in their weekly schedule. If it’s not in your schedule, you will spend most of your time on the urgent issues instead of try to set aside one hour, maximum two hours, not more than that, one hour is even sufficient, every week with your project team, so that you work on, step-by-step, solving the problem, finding the solution.
Therefore, it’s really taking too much time that project teams work together. If the lead time of the project is very long, the longer it is, the smaller the chance that you will come up with the right solution. That’s my experience. So instead, put it in your agenda, have it in your schedule, weekly schedule, come together and spend some time, consequently, week by week, to solve the problem, based on the method that you are choosing.
Your Call To Action
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