Problem to Strategy
I wrote an article awhile back called Reaction is Not Solution. In it I wrote about how you can discover a problem and are then presented with a couple of different paths to solve it. Unfortunately, the culture in many businesses is to not even bring a problem to the surface unless you have a solution ready to share. In that article I go over why that’s probably not a great idea.
While it was more about decision-making and problem-solving, I never addressed strategy and planning in that article. Admittedly I am in a different position now as an entrepreneur, and it can seem to others that I can afford the “luxury” of working on mapping strategy and plans to a problem, spending the time needed to research and virtually test possible scenarios before heading in a single direction. I’d like to say that (a) that always happens, (b) it always works, and (c) I always have time to do it. None of those is true. So, the only difference between my current state and that of when I worked in corporate is that now my own business needs drive my discipline to the process, as opposed to the requirements laid on me by my manager. The latter is annoying, but the former will raise the hairs on the back of your head, believe me.
Still, when you get down to it, if you can’t draw the lines from the problem back to the business strategy and then back out to a potential solution, you’re only going to get yourself in trouble. How likely is the “fix” going to be a bandage of some sort? If you’re emotionally wound up, how clearly are you thinking about the best way through the problem? If you’re an entrepreneur, how likely are you to look for guidance and expertise around you, instead of the way you normally handle things: buck up and try to fix it yourself? Besides, isn’t that cheaper?
The nature of the problem may place certain constraints on you, of course. If the couch is on fire, you can’t afford to test different scenarios….you need to grab the fire extinguisher and put out the fire! THEN you can figure out what happened. Still, most business problems we get are not that urgent or life-threatening.
- Demand is declining (or never got to the point of profitability) for your product or service.
- You’ve got pretty good visibility as a business, but no one is interested in your product or service (at least not enough).
- You work like a fool, to the detriment of your health and your loved ones, and you STILL can’t bring your bottom line to a profitable point.
- You spend a TON of time trying to “work” social media, but all you get are crickets.
- You are blind-sided more often than not by industry changes or the “whims” of your customers.
- The old ways of business development just don’t work as well as they did 5 years ago, and you don’t really know what to do about it.
- You’ve hired a couple of employees to scale out your business, and that’s not going well.
There are way too many more to list….
Drawing the line back to your business plan and strategy helps. Provided you created a business plan when you created your company, when was the last time you took a look at it to see if it still accurately represented your vision? Have things changed? If so, you have to change the plan and the strategy. It could be that the problems you’re having are the Reality of your business today, and not part of the Original Plan. Revise the Plan. Draw that line from the problem to the new plan and see what you have. It’s not guaranteed that a solution will just pop out of the revised strategy, but at least you’ll be starting from something that maps more closely to your current reality, and that will make working through the problem more valuable and more likely to succeed….even if you have to come up with several solutions, test them, chucking the ones that don’t work and landing on the one that does.
Don’t be afraid to get some help. There are a lot of resources out there (organizations like the Small Business Administration
, Chambers of Commerce
, business coaches, consultants, mentors and other colleagues that have been through similar problems) that can not only help you through the problem and out to solutions, but can also give you some real live moral support.
You’re not in this alone.
Take the time (if that couch isn’t burning…) to get this right, and you and your business will be the better for it.