If you work with software engineers you likely hear the phrase “technical debt” regularly.* This is a painful reality for active projects, but just as painful is something you won’t hear discussed: Innovation Debt. We incur this debt from failing to innovate and renovate ourselves and our products. While the pain from this kind of debt isn’t felt as quickly, when the bill comes due it may be more expensive than a firm can bear.
In most companies only the executives think or talk about the need for innovation, while those with Continue reading
But they do make a LOT of them. More than 75 per second. No one I know would claim they make the best, but they are everywhere, and what you get is usually pretty consistent no matter which franchise you get it from. In comparison, there are many craft shops where you can pay several times the cost and get a much better burger, but you won’t be able to buy it anywhere near as many places on the planet, nor with as much efficiency and speed.
This isn’t by accident. McDonald’s made a decision, and has pursued it for a long time, supporting that decision with good sales and marketing, training and processes. The result is, McDonald’s are everywhere. In comparison the craft shop likely makes more profit per person and has no intention of being the burger making machine which is a fast food restaurant.
How does this apply to you? We must make strategic decisions. Determine who your customers are, what they need that you can provide and your competitors can’t, or don’t do as well as you. That’s where you can succeed. Usually there is room in the market for both the high volume and the high quality producers, but attempting to be both almost always fails.
Process. While it’s a multi-billion dollar business each year in the U.S. alone, to read recent business magazines and blogs you’d think it a dirty word. Clearly, for large companies there are sincere savings to be had from sometimes marginal changes, and small growing companies regularly complain about not having enough. If this is so, what makes it so bad?
It’s not that simple. Too much process is just as bad as too little. It stifles innovation, prevents canaries in the mine from being able to sound the alarm, causes proliferation of non-beneficial overhead, and generally slows production and results. You can have too much of a good thing. In my opinion, processes should be like salt or spice in a meal; enough that you notice and appreciate it, but not so much as to overpower.
It isn’t more or less process we all want, it’s the right process. Keep it simple, get it working. Striving for that sweet spot is what will keep us all talking about process for some time.
When you confront a problem, one of the most important things you can do is ensure you are asking the correct questions. Too often we dive in to solving a problem the moment it is presented, but quite frequently, that will not lead to an optimal solution. Sometimes it doesn’t even solve the problem at all! Instead, step back from the problem and ask a few questions.
- What are you trying to accomplish? (or, what is the desired result?)
- Why is this important now?
- Who should be tackling this issue (and how can I/we help them to do so)?
By asking these and similar questions, you can determine if you are attacking the real root cause of a problem, the right problem, or potentially even something you don’t need to worry about at all. This takes only a moment, and can save so much.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.