Duct Tape Management

Toban Black - Flickr Photostream

Toban Black – Flickr Photostream

Since its original use during World War II to protect ammunition cases, duct tape has become a common stable in nearly every home or garage around the world. People love things that have a variety of uses. Duct tape is primarily used as an emergency repair tool, but you can find a variety of Web sites, which tout its decorative and craft-making abilities as well. I love using duct tape and my home is never without at least one roll; I know however, that whatever I use duct tape on will eventually need to be replaced. Using duct tape to seal a leaky hose or hem your pants gives you a temporary feeling of accomplishment and allows you to go forward for a while, but it does nothing to correct the underlying problem. The good feeling you have is temporary at best. 

When it comes to managing people, the same is true; temporary fixes are just that, temporary. The problem some organizations run up against is the need to keep moving in a fast-paced, competitive environment. It is so much easier to apply a quick fix, which looks good esthetically and buys everyone a little time. Everyone moves on and the issue is masked over until the next application of adhesive fabric needs to be lain.

The Root of the Problem

Getting to the root cause of an issue is the most difficult, yet important step an organization can take if it truly desires a fix. It involves:

  • Asking tough questions – What is happening? When is it happening? Why is it happening? Who is affected?
  • Being open to criticism – No one likes to be wrong and we like it even less when we are told we are, but sometimes the problems within an organization begin with you or other leaders within your organization. Either way, by acknowledging responsibility, the organization can move away from blame placement and on to finding solutions.
  • Be understanding of the limitations of others – This perhaps something you don’t hear very much in a business context, but the point here is that we are talking about repairing human interactions and relationships, not leaky hoses. Again, focus on assigning solutions, not blame.

The  goal is to identify the size, scope and severity of the problem and hopefully, you have already created the kind of workplace communication environment in which employees feel comfortable bringing issues up to the attention of management; if not, now is an excellent opportunity to get that going. You will also want to know what steps have been taken in the past and what impact they have had. This will save time by not repeating failed steps and narrow the focus on finding solutions.

Finding Solutions that Last

Once you have done the necessary analysis of the problem, don’t settle for short-term, shortsighted fixes. It may seem that this approach will take much too long, but consider how much time and revenue has been spent on revisiting or ignoring reoccurring problems. Get as many of those affect by the problem involved in the solution process. This will keep everyone engaged and give them each a stake in a positive outcome. Whatever solutions are offered should be able to pass the following criteria:

  • Is it flexible? – Whether or not you agree that corporations are to be treated like people in the eyes of the law, in truth, corporations must be changeable and have a “persona” in which the public identifies. Therefore, your solution(s) must be able to grow with your business and be true to your company’s image.
  • Is it fair? – Fairness may not be the appropriate word, but sometimes solutions do more harm than good; striving to do more good than harm should be the goal.
  • Is it sustainable – Use the duct tape analogy; if your solution can hold up to the stresses and demands of time then it is certainly worth exploring.

Finding long-term solutions to problems is well worth the effort in time because the outcomes will allow your organization to move on to bigger and profitable projects. In addition, the communications and problem-solving skills that will be honed will help sustain your business for years to come.

Celebrate Successes

The opportunities to create “good feelings” with employees and customers by resolving nagging problems are endless. One should never miss the chance to say, “We did this together!” As you may have heard repeatedly, effective communication is not static and in everyone’s busy life, it is all too easy to overlook or forget the little successes we have each day. If your organization has worked through a serious issue to come up with a solution that meets the basic criteria described above, then sincere congratulations and occasional reminders are the foundations of generating enthusiasm for meeting future challenges.

~ Richard


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