There Is Always a Solution 

by Shohreh Aftahi, MBA, Ph.D.

The primary challenge in creating value in business today is far more complex than ever before. The reason for this stems from contradicting performance requirements that companies should meet in order to create value, such as quality and low cost, reliability and speed, customization and standardization, innovation and efficiency. This challenge becomes exacerbated by having to satisfy multiple stakeholders that include board members, stockholders, customers and employees, all having different needs. The question is, which do you satisfy first that may help in satisfying the other stakeholders?

Companies like Southwest Airlines, Netflix, Amazon and H&M have been able to take the challenge of competing performance requirements and turn them into a competitive advantage by satisfying the contractions in an innovative approach that is their value proposition to the consumers. Southwest Airlines balanced the speed and reliability, Netflix and Amazon offer richness of content and reach the maximum audience, and H&M equalized fashion and affordability.

Having to satisfy performance requirements contradictory in nature while contemporaneously satisfying various stakeholders can be a problem, particularly if the over-provisioning of structure, processes, systems, matrices and/or incentives complicates the organizational structure. The more complicated the organization, the more difficult it is to navigate the path. People, consequently, lose direction and work becomes less meaningful, resulting in feelings of overwhelming stress and eventual burnout.

One symptom of an overwhelmed organization is leaders and mid-level managers spending more time in meetings and concern over producing reports as opposed to performing the significant value-driving activities. In general, managers spend more time creating reports and meeting for subsequent respective discussions than developing, guiding and managing the employees on their team. This lack of direction causes teams to spend more than 50 percent of their time on non-value-adding activities, having to work longer and harder yet yielding only disillusionment and burnout. Focusing on value-driving activities is key in successful business.

There are steps you can take to adapt to the shift required for better management of business complexity:

  1. Declutter the organization from multi-level hierarchy, creating an inclusive environment.
  2. Encourage your teams to learn to prioritize and focus on the most value-driving
  3. Activities.
  4. Understand exactly what your people do.
  5. Distribute the power within teams to give autonomy to foster the ability to use judgement in finding solutions, collaboration and ownership.
  6. Reinforce integration.
  7. Allow learning from every experience and share knowledge.
  8. Reward those who engage and reinforce the consequences for those who do not.

Challenges are complex in today’s environment, and teams must remain creative in identifying solutions. Teams must be cooperative, engaged and possess autonomy in finding available solutions that are beyond the pre-defined processes of the past in order to support the success of their organization. Allowing for such cooperative teams to flourish requires a change in the hardwired structure of the past.

Shohreh Aftahi, MBA, PhD is with FocalPoint Business Performance Coaching

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