Riddell: A framework for positive resolution (column)
April 4, 2017
Certainly, one of the greatest satisfactions in working with entrepreneurs is helping to positively resolve a problem. Given that every unresolved problem represents some type of cost, some type of profit reduction, it is clearly in the best interest of every business owner/manager to have some type of system for addressing the problem. Over time and working with a number of companies and business leaders, I have uncovered some consistent generalities that lend themselves to a framework to positively resolve most business problems.
The first generality has to do with the common mistake of confusing a symptom of a problem with the actual problem. For example, when asked what is their biggest problem, a vast majority of entrepreneurs will quickly identify lack of sales as their biggest concern. Lack of sales, however, is merely a symptom of some other problem, often stemming directly from a shortcoming in the business interaction between people, product, and processes. Savvy and successful managers know that continuing to drill down, asking tough questions, and listening to, perhaps uncomfortable answers, will ultimately uncover the real problem and only then can any progress be made.
Once the true problem has been identified, another filter must be applied. Given the limited amount of resources of time and money, that all small business owners/mangers have to deal with, it is imperative that these limited resources be brought to bear on those issues the entrepreneur can impact. These are referred to as "controllables" and must be separated mentally, physically, and emotionally from the "non-controllables." Study the traits of successful people in all walks of life and a consistent theme of impacting controllables is quite clear. This theme of impacting is underscored by their awareness of this need and their discipline to implement the personal rigor required to maintain the focus.
The final piece of the framework for positive resolution is the commitment to some type of action within some time frame. Without a commitment to action, the entire previous two steps are merely academic. Action is the only way to bring about change. Given the rather lonely nature of many entrepreneurial adventures, many find that sharing this commitment with an outside advisor or a trusted friend greatly enhances the probability that the commitment will be fulfilled. A third-party avenue of accountability seems to work wonders when it comes to staying on track, on schedule.
Personally implementing this framework for your business is not going to make your problems disappear or decrease in magnitude. What will decrease, however, is your personal stress level. As many studies have shown, the ability to stay focused on those things and actions that you can personally control and impact is a tremendous sanity maintainer. In the insane and seemingly uncontrollable competitive world of small business and entrepreneurship, developing this skill becomes paramount for survival.
I have also found with many small business owners/managers that the best way to implement this framework for positive resolution is to take a piece of paper and make three columns. The first is the problem with the logic breakdown separating issue and symptom. The second column then identifies the fundamental issue as either "controllable" or "non controllable." And the final column is the action definition with commensurate dates or timeline. Force yourself to carve out some time to try this and I guarantee that you will be a more effective owner/manager and you'll probably sleep a little better at night.