Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Working-"ON"-the-business problem

The Working "ON" the business problem.  Consultants, particularly those who focus on initiatives that work “ON” the business, run into this problem all the time.  In this context we classify two kinds of managers, one is the ‘Roadblock’ manager, the other is the ‘How do we...’ manager.

The ‘Roadblock’ manager always has a working ‘IN’ the business reason for not focussing on a working “ON” the business initiative.  Robert Galvin, the former CEO of Motorola back when it was a truly outstanding company, pointed this out to me.  These managers will say things like, “We are in the middle of restructuring our leadership team, as soon as that is done then we can talk about...” or “We just been hit with a big order and it’s all hands on deck for the next few weeks...” or “Right now, we have to focus on top-line growth, everything else is on hold...” or “We are going to have to put training on hold for the time being, we need to focus on hiring a new COO.”  Galvin classifies these as roadblock statements.  They sound reasonable, but block potential progress, and are never really true.   They are always working “IN” the business obstacles. 

Managers who do not throw up roadblocks don’t make these kinds of statements.  Rather, they are inclined to ask questions.  Their questions usually start with “How do we...”  For example, “How do we schedule this training such that we can still get our regular work done?”  These managers don’t want to hear “We can’t.”  They tend to have a “Can do” attitude.  They are also managers who are more likely to focus balanced effort on working “ON” the business and working “IN” the business.

The ‘How do we...’ manager tends to get lots more done than the ‘Roadblock’ manager.