"If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing." ~Malcolm Gladwell
"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless." ~Thomas A. Edison
Most people are attracted to new things. We were as children with the latest toy, and we are as adults in many ways as well. In the workplace, leaders often look to new solutions as a means to solve existing problems. While this may very well lead to the improvements needed, it is important that you ensure that you have learned as much as you can from the existing process and problem. This leads to better solutions and a better base of knowledge for future endeavors.
I have seen a department go through a restructuring six times over the course of three years. Surely one of those structures should have worked if they were learning everything they could from their struggles. And what’s more, they lost a huge amount of productivity since they never really moved off of the “learning curve.”
One of the great rules of outsourcing is that you cannot outsource what you haven’t mastered yourself, and I think that has a lesson for each of us as we look to make improvements. Do we really understand the process we are looking to change? Have we mastered it? Make sure you have tried to fix the current issue so that you can save time, energy, and money down the road. Once you’ve done this due diligence and the new course of action still makes sense, then go for it!
If you want an idea of what you should be looking at in existing processes before making a change, look no further than the below three points:
Take a look at each of the steps – Be clear on where the breakdown/needed improvement needs to happen. Whenever you break down a process into its component parts you ALWAYS learn something (usually it’s a big dose of reality at how things actually work).
Don’t just look at the intended improvement, look at the implementation cost – Many questionable improvements would never get off of the brainstorming board if the implementation costs of training, lost productivity, and unforeseen challenges were taken into account. This step stops you from making those annoyingly small changes that don’t really accomplish anything.
What can be learned prior to the change – Once you’re ready to make a change ask yourself one last time if you need to pull together any data points, are there any procedures you want to write down, and are there any dependencies between departments or within the department you want to maintain.
Regardless of whether you are going with something new or sticking with the old, remember to keep things as simple as possible. Many of us LOVE to complicate things, but rarely does complication trump simplicity. Great leadership comes from a base of understanding of where you are always making well informed improvements to the current state of the organization. However, that doesn’t always mean that large changes are more impactful than small ones. If you haven’t done your due diligence, the large change can actually set you back.
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