Slow-moving problems are frequently overlooked inside organizations. They are usually ones that are very un-sexy, seemingly boring and often don’t have a highly visible and shiny ROI attached to them. They are typically seen as ‘just the way things are’ and perceived as more pain and cost to change them, rather than simply let them lie dormant. The issue is that these problems will eventually turn into crises and too many organizations don’t take action until they are emergencies.
Take, for example, a company that does not continually review and streamlines its internal processes. Things like how documentation runs through the company, or how many steps it takes to process a customer request. These things seem fairly minuscule, and it’s much easier to train one new person coming on board on ‘your process’ rather than retrain the organization on a completely new way of doing things.
What gets overlooked, is that these processes aren’t static. They have changed over time and likely have become unwieldy. A process that took 3 steps to complete 10 years ago, may take 13 today, due to other changes in the organization, changes in technology, or even changes in personnel. This process is now a problem, as it impacts not only the people who have to manage it but the other areas of the organization that interact with it. In addition, it likely has started to impact areas outside the organization, such as customer experience and engagement efficiency. At this stage, likely the organization still doesn’t feel the impact of the problem. It remains simply an annoyance, that is more hassle to address than seemingly the benefit.
However, this problem will turn into a crisis on multiple levels. It may begin in a subtle way, such as retaining younger talent, where tech-savvy candidates look for organizations with cultures of continuous improvement and internal efficiencies. It may manifest also in a slow decline in customer growth, where expectations in service and responsiveness continue to change and customers start seeking alternative companies that can serve their needs more efficiently. It may appear as a bottleneck between departments, where information gets stuck, dropped, or simply mishandled during handoffs.
While each of these challenges seems small and independent of each other, in this example, they all stem from the problem of processes not being reviewed, refined and attended to. How does this turn into a crisis? Think of it as a disease – more often than not, a disease isn’t contracted immediately. It takes time to flourish and starts with small symptoms that are easily ignored. A headache, a small pain, an annoying cough. Along the way, each of these small problems, proactively addressed, can assuage the downstream condition, and possibly avoid it altogether. When ignored, they continue to pile until you are diagnosed with something which is irreversible.
It’s hard to tackle small problems that seem unimportant, or don’t directly tie to something that has a dramatic “win” behind it, whether it be entering a new market to increase sales or installing a new software platform to improve organizational operations. However, the small things, the little things – these are the problems that can create havoc downstream if left unattended. They also can be the simplest things to address that cost you little to nothing, if you tackle them early enough. Otherwise, you’ll be just managing yet another preventable crisis.
About the Author
Andrea’s 22-year, field-tested background provides unique, applicable approaches to creating more customer-centric organizations. A 4-time ADDY® award-winner, she began her career at a tech start-up and led the strategic marketing efforts at two global industrial manufacturers.
In addition to writing, consulting and coaching, Andrea speaks to organizations around the world on how to craft effective customer-facing operational strategies to effectively differentiate and build healthy, efficient organizational cultures.