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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Transform the Business

In a normal business day most of us do multiple tasks. We sell, schedule, purchase, check, motivate, plan, clean, decide, promote, drive - gosh, I could fill all the space available with just this list. Many of these tasks are "automatic," some simple task that just about anyone can do with minimal training. Some tasks are "mechanical," requiring training and dexterity, some are "transactional" which requires nuanced skills and experience such as selling, negotiating, or purchasing.

Most owners and business executives of smaller businesses work at all these tasks regularly of course but their primary business responsibility is to insure the sustainability of the business into the future. This requires that they spend time "transforming" what the business is currently doing into what it will need to do in the future. Tasks in this category are "transformational."

A transformational task might be delegating something important but relatively simple such as scheduling the maintenance of equipment on a monthly basis, creating a new training program to improve sales skills of the people who answer the telephones, to deciding whether or not the time is appropriate for expanding the warehouse. When done successfully, transformational tasks make the company more competitive, more able to respond to changing conditions, and leverage talent. But there are two problems.

One problem is that transformation takes time, usually time that is required for every day "taking care of business" tasks. Juggling competing tasks increases stress burdening the whole company. The way to deal with the competition for time is to schedule transformational tasks in a methodical, prioritized fashion. Work on them in little baby steps rather then in a grand, expansive, change-everything-at-once pace so normal business activities do not suffer.

The second problem is that a new method might not be quite ready when put to use. Errors are made that will need to be corrected which will take extra time.

The solution for these problems is discipline, testing and patience. Discipline keeps blind enthusiasm from taking over, testing will help see what needs to be improved, patience will allow the time to get it right.


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