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Are you attacking the right monster

rock monsterThanks to some friends on Google+, I discovered this Kevin Jones (vinJones) piece on Losing to Organizational Monsters That Don’t Exist:

Years ago Apple had a problem, they were losing to Microsoft. But the problem was that Microsoft wasn’t the enemy they were losing to (fabulous video).

The piece talks about how people and organizations often try to change a situation or attack a problem by creating what they think the opposite circumstances will be. People demotivated? Create motivation! Losing market share to X? Beat X at their own game! Project tasks always late? Create incentives for being on time! (Or punishments for being late!)

The problem, as Kevin Jones discusses is that we see the wrong thing. We look at situation X and try to find the opposite. Instead, maybe we should be looking under the covers and figure out what is causing situation X. Or to take his Apple example, look at the situation from a completely different angle.

This idea is some of the more interesting things I get to do in my process improvement / Theory of Constraints work. Step back and look at the situation. Find out the deeper causes of dissatisfaction, and the answers usually turn out to be non-obvious, but then they become obvious as you put together the pieces. For example, if you are looking to hire people because everyone is at their limit, maybe you should spend some time examining the system that is causing everyone to be "at their limit." Hiring someone new into the existing system will likely create another casualty.

[Photo: "rock monster" by Kathryn Rotondo]

Lean Project Leadership

That can't possibly work here