When It Just Isn't Working

I was watching a football game a number of weeks ago where the 49ers were getting slaughtered by the Cardinals (7-47). After the game, the press asked the 49er coach what happened and what he was going to do about it. His answer was "get back to basics." Well isn't that what the losing coach always says?

But that got me thinking

When things just aren't working as planned or intended, what do we do? What should we do? How about this... Get Back to Basics! In today's workplace managers (and leaders) tend to get entrenched and lost in their efforts while forging to the goal line by doing the same thing over and over again, not realizing that they aren't making any headway but then wondering why we can't get to the intended goal. Then you're left with that feeling as if you're beating the proverbial "dead horse" or better yet, let's just stick our heads through our computer monitors. It all really boils down to feeling frustrated and ineffective which equates to STRESS.

Back to Basics

So now it's time. Let's step back from what we are doing and take a breath. Clearly it's time to rethink what we're doing and how we got here. Typically, decisions are made on what we knew at the time, our experience in addressing similar issues or goals, and the current state of the organization or department. Given that some time must have passed to get you to this point (or ceiling), start asking these questions:

  1. What decisions were made that led to the current state (make a list)
  2. Why were these decisions made
  3. What information do I need to assess the current state
  4. Are the metrics aligned with the goal
  5. What does the ideal state look like
  6. What are the barriers in the system that are preventing success (reaching the goal)

The more questions you ask the better. It will help re-start the thinking process. And it's ok if you don't thoroughly know the answers. Asking questions is how we hit the "restart" button.

Mind Clearing to a Solution

Now that you've asked the questions, it's time to start rethinking what you are doing and what you are trying to accomplish. This is the hardest part since it involves "thinking outside the box" and with being so entrenched in what we are doing, if we can't "restart" our minds, we won't be able to get through this part. One of the most helpful techniques is using external peers, coaches or consultants. Pretty much anyone you think will be able to give you perspective (must be external though). Brainstorming with a different perspective (thinking outside the box) is where you can find possible solutions.

Making it Work

From my experience, it only takes a minor change here or there, a shift or tweak, or addition/subtraction of a workflow or process to generate the real movement forward. Occasionally, you may need to completely overhaul a part of a system to get to that goal line. Either way, the idea is to find a way to make it work to the betterment of all involved in the effort and get to the goal line. Andy Stanley sums it up best, "Stop looking for solutions to problems and start looking for the right path", when it just isn't working.

©  Darrielle Ehrheart | November 13, 2015

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