I realized through a lot of career soul-searching that I’ve never uttered those words. To me, this can be a red flag.
You haven’t asked the right questions before writing that check.
Examples at companies are numerous and abundant. Call centers, for example, take repeat calls from customers every day, but they don’t know they are repeats. Their transaction-based cultures focus on helping that one customer get back on track (which is important), but rarely does they ask, “Why did my customer have to call?” or “Why didn’t that function work?” or “I wonder if that same thing is happening to other customers?” Just on to the next call, track your average handle time and try to lower it, and ensure you have enough staff waiting to take the next call so your customers don’t have to wait. Or maybe your teams are working on too many things, and you haven’t asked the difficult questions about relative priorities or implemented the concepts of constraints (only x hours of work can be done by a fixed team, so prioritize what you need the team to work on and ask teams to stop working on work that does not add as much value).
Sometimes those transactions are not even tracked, so you have no chance at even mining the CRM or service management data for trends and patterns. So, when call volumes climb, the go-to seems to be “We need more staff.”
When contemplating whether or not to add, or not to add, (that is the question) Leadership must first ask what work those teams are doing that could be eliminated, automated, or dealt with in a different way.
By asking those questions, it forces the teams to dig deeper to identify improvement candidates and get them implemented.
I often tell people to treat their job and role as if they were the owner of the company, and it was their personal money being spent. Typically, this orientation proves the point—that we can get lazy in our critical thinking and problem solving when writing a check can take care of the short-term pain. But through this re-orientation, often times improvement ideas can be identified easily and implemented. All you had to do is ask a few questions.
Great article. As I was reading it I was reminded of one of Steven Covey’s 7 habits, “Sharpen The Saw.” Here is one link to the habit https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-7.html.
Thanks for sharing!