Your Business Can Only Have One Problem

OK, perhaps two problems? Certainly not ten! You may have 30 issues you battle with each day in your business, but I always challenge my clients that we can identify 1, 2 or 3 core problems at most that underline all these issues or symptoms.

There are no secrets behind this. After all, the whole universe as you know it, or imagine it (including the brain cells you use to imagine it!) came from one Bang! Your business ‘issues’ are no different. But this distillation to core problems requires objectivity, serious dedication and lots of energy. And the rewards are immense to your business and you personally.

Current Reality Tree

Eliyahu Goldratt, in his Theory of Constraints, referred to this thinking process as building the Current Reality Tree. Basically, you can imagine your issues to be the branches of the tree while the core problem is the trunk; you start with a random list of branches (issues) and you systematically build the links between them (e.g., cause and effect), until you zoom in on your core problems.

What does it take?

Usually the effort you put in to identify the underlying core problems is far less than the time you spend fighting the symptoms each day.

Here is a simplified example

This is a list of issues one business is dealing with everyday; can you identify the one core problem that, if addressed, can easily make these issues disappear?

1. It is too risky to hire more staff
2. We are missing a lot of delivery timelines
3. We sometimes let go of some large orders, because our resources are too stretched
4. We are losing more key employees than we can hire
5. Our high margins are shrinking because of fierce competition
6. Our overdue receivables are growing
7. I don’t know how to survive this economic downturn
8. It is hard to get the right people to do my job
9. Our marketing campaigns are hit and miss
10. It’s hard to get employees to be engaged these days
11. Our employees think they are overworked
12. I cannot take a day off
13. I have been doing the same firefighting for the last 20 years

The key is to remember that distilling the issues to, say, “fewer” core problems is not good enough; you can do better if you are determined and focused. Usually the deeper you try the more challenging it gets. Whenever possible, enlist the assistance of your business coach, team members and, sometimes, trusted clients.