The theory of constraints formulated by Eliyahu Goldratt suggests that every business system, regardless of the industry, has at least one limiting factor affecting optimal performance. His book, The Goal, goes on to inspire leaders towards simple solutions to perceived complex problems. Equally important, Dr. Goldratt reveals the devastating impact that an organization’s psychology can have on the process of improvement.
There have been many times I have felt stuck in my business, at times almost paralyzed. Getting unstuck requires different solutions for different situations. In my final blog post of this series, I’ve compiled a list of three tips to help business owners get from feeling stuck to moving freely to their next step.
1. Lean into the bottleneck
Seth Godin says this best, “You lean into a problem, especially a long-term or difficult one, by sitting with it, revelling in it, embracing it and breathing it in.”
As a business owner we can identify external problems, glitches and weaknesses through customer surveys, focus groups, or personal interviews. Through these we carefully assess our customer’s perception regarding our reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and overall care. Internal bottlenecks can be found by walking through your procedures using flowcharts, storyboards, and team brainstorming sessions.
Once the bottleneck is revealed we can often feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to fix it. By leaning into the problem, breathing it in, you will eventually no longer feel paralyzed by it, but see it for what it really is – something that can and will be fixed.
2. Re-focus on your mission
In 2012, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, realized that he “felt lost because TOMS had become more focused on process than on purpose.” Mycoskie went on to describe these feelings as “concentrating so hard on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of scaling up that we’d forgotten our overarching mission, which is to use business to improve lives.”
Due to this realization, Mycoskie took a six-month sabbatical and used the physical and psychological separation to do some soul-searching and to re-connect with his mission. He found it, and came back with confidence and direction.
I have found that taking more frequent sabbaticals throughout the year, something very new to me, has been quite helpful in helping me stay connected to our mission. Doing this often means thinking back to my earliest beginnings and first few clients. I can imagine those moments so strongly that they truly feel like yesterday, rather than 25 years ago, and these images immediately remind me of my company’s purpose of why we do what we do.
3. Remove money from the ultimate equation
In a social purpose business, money is never the goal, nor is it the problem – it is only one of the tools to be used and measured.
At JB Music Therapy we relate a lot to the owner of Impakt, Paul Klein, who has structured his measuring stick quite similarly to ours: only do work with purpose and have the courage to walk away from opportunities that compromise that purpose; work with people (employees and clients) you authentically like and respect; compensate people fairly; and have fun.
In addition to the above, we also measure our company’s impact by the results our clients experience and the number of people we serve based on need, and regardless of age or ability. Like Klein, we have found that “profitability is qualitative” and always aligns with and accompanies the other measures.
You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.
As Goldratt teaches us, once the problems are identified, and a simple solution is in place, it’s essential to allow enough time to fully evaluate whether the new implemented solutions are working before moving on to dealing with another service constraint.
The evaluation period will vary. If a review determines the solution isn’t sufficient, and the problem is still negatively affecting overall service performance, it is critical to go back and brainstorm an alternative solution with your team. If the solution is effective and has solved the problem, begin the process once again with another service constraint.
As a leader it is not what you think, but how you feel, that will impact what you choose to do next, and how others will respond through that process. Doing good work is about learning to be a ‘feelings-biased’ business owner – one who values people more than profit but recognizes that both are needed to make a difference. Joe McFarland calls this all “impact.”
I commit that my business and life will be based on how they impact those around me. I will do whatever it takes to produce my best work at all times, to pursue joy and meaning, and not to get too stuck for too long.
Now that I have finished this blog series about building community impact I feel I am ready to finish my book on the same topic. I will continue to publish regular blog posts about this to hold your interest until the book is published in 2018.
All the best,