April 20, 2014

Chronic problems are not problems, they are constraints.

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In any environment, among any group of people, there are going to be problems that just don’t go away.  You might have a critical vendor who is your only go-to source, but who is chronically late to contract.  You might have a genius employee who is a prima donna.  Or, you might have a moronic employee who is also a prima donna.  The parts won’t fit, the resource won’t perform, and the only person who truly suffers is your customer. (Until your employees suffer because of the layoffs arising from all the other ills).

There is a tendency to point fingers when this sort of thing goes on.  The problem is, quite clearly, that guy – the one right over there – and he needs to get himself and/or his team together or we’re going to keep having this problem.  Just like last time.  And the time before that.  And before that, too.  In fact, those guys are responsible for at least 3 of the 5 messes we’re dealing with right now.

Well, then, as always – the problem is not them.  It is you.

For some reason, you keep going back to a supplier (individual or organization, it doesn’t matter) who always fails.  That’s the real problem.  If some systemic mechanism requires that you keep going back to an underperforming entity,  then you have to at least consider that whatever the problem is can’t be fixed, and all you’re doing is stubbornly insisting that the behavior will change simply because it should.

Good luck with that.

When chronic problems never seem to get better, there is a need to take a step back and reflect.  Are you attempting to do more than the improbable – but the impossible?  If so, and especially if it’s a repeated occurrence of doing so, then look inward for your solutions, and not outward.

You will get farther in the long run if you admit that you don’t know how to influence your vendor such that what is expected is delivered on time.  Admitting the personal and organizational shortcomings breaks those problems down into bite-size chunks and it is only when those chunks are small enough that countermeasures can be implemented anyway.

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