Fix the Toaster

December 14, 2022
# min read
Doug Brown

Do you want to fix the toaster, or do you keep scraping the burnt part off the toast? It seems like a simple question, but hear me out.

In business and life, we get what we accept. If so, why would we continue to accept an unacceptable outcome rather than address the core problem? These questions may seem ridiculous at first blush.

Now, let’s take that experience into our corporate hallways.

When was the last time you asked yourself where examples of non-productive behavior have crept in as people had to battle the problems caused by all the pressures of the recent past?

Where are past decisions continuing to cause people in your organization to struggle or fall further behind?

Where are leaders and managers asking people to do the equivalent of rolling bowling balls uphill every day to get things done? Are other top leaders in your organization even noticing this has become commonplace? Are they stopping to wonder when their people will be burning out and won’t seem as committed as they once were?

So many people get overwhelmed by the drumbeat of day-to-day responsibilities. They don’t always stop to consider how their decisions impact their direct reports, who are just trying to make a living.

I compare it to driving a speedboat across a lake. The Captain can be so focused on getting to the other side that they become oblivious. They don’t notice that their wake is flooding all the properties along the shoreline.

If your organization has put formal process improvement initiatives on hold during the epidemic, it’s time to take a fresh look at opportunities. While looking for areas to explore, don’t forget to start with how your senior executives are running the business.

How seamlessly does your organization operate? Please go much deeper in your thinking process than whether or not you have an up-to-date organization chart. You and your top team need to examine whether your organization is coalescing around the best ways to get things done.

It can be enlightening to see how things are getting done versus how they are supposed to be getting done.

While some people may smile and say, “Great job innovating,” others will be shocked to learn that many of the checks and balances they thought were in place are being ignored for expediency.

Where do you expect your firm to be on that continuum when you take the time to examine it? Are your teams operating like a well-oiled kanban system or more like a TV comedy show?

Anytime the answer is different from what you had hoped for, look at how easy it is for someone at any level to get things done. Examine your processes for efficiency and effectiveness. Look vertically (relationships with people above or below in the hierarchy) and horizontally (across functional disciplines). Imagine fully capitalizing on foresight, insight, common sense, and proven processes to help you run your business and increase your chances for long-term success.

Editor’s Note:This article was originally published in American Executive Magazine

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