[September 28, 2013]
“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford
Keeping an organization on track (Staying on Plan) is a difficult task. There are seemingly endless list of obstacles/challenges that hinder leader, team, employee, and organizational performance and mission accomplishment.
Some goals are externally imposed, like the customer who demands a certain delivery schedule. Some are internal, like organizational bureaucracy.
The job of leaders at all levels is to figure out ways to either eliminate/reduce obstacles or ways to bypass them. This is where leaders frequently falter, giving up in the face of adversity and out of frustration.
So, how do we prevent obstacles from preventing us from achieving our goals? The most important thing is to begin with a winning attitude. Employees and leaders who operate in a positive organizational environment will be more successful.
The first step in overcoming obstacles is the proper identification of the obstacle(s) themselves. Then, using the organization’s strategy as a guide, develop courses of action that reduce a specific obstacle’s impact. The next step is to decide on the course and develop a follow-up plan to monitor progress. Lastly, senior leaders understand this is a never ending cycle of intense activity.
Where do we normally go wrong? Typically, it’s a lack of imagination or lack of creativity in dealing with obstacles. The level of obstacle difficulty or complexity is rarely the problem – these require the most senior leader involvement.
Large complex obstacles require intense study, purposeful attentiveness, aggressive action, and the focus of the most senior executive leader. Normally these cannot be solved or bypassed but can be reduced to a point that their impact is lessoned.
George Eastman created his company, Kodak, originally on glass plate photographic technology but was later able to deliver photographic and video to all with film technology – creating a capital empire in a few years (future blog on George Eastman).
Senior executive leaders must create the conditions for employees to overcome or bypass obstacles.
This is more than providing the required resources but also setting the positive, creative work environment; allowing risk taking, providing rewards and recognition, encouraging the imaginative, protecting the thinkers and problem solvers, and taking the necessary action to put the right people to the task.