Leadership Focus: Finding Solutions or Excuses?

On a usual workday, I am working with my employees on specific problems and opportunities for improvement. Examples are “review of key performance indicators, investigation of the causes of problems, agreement on countermeasures, coaching of team members.”

Our approach is simple enough, so that it could pass the “real-world” test:

  1. Establish transparency of facts
  2. Understand the issue and agree on solutions
  3. Implement the actions with a certain consequence

First we work on making the processes transparent, in order to clearly see the CURRENT STATE and to infer the TARGET STATE. This gives every team member the opportunity to identify the actual, critical gaps for their relevant tasks and to start working on the improvement.

Practical examples for fact-based clarity are shown in visual charts on site for everyone to see:

  • Delivery: shipments are late between 3-14 days
  • Quality: 14 non-conformances at a cost of € 13,729
  • Costs: labor budget exceeded by 11%
  • Availability: an agreed upon OEE of 67% was missed by 12%

Without a clear view on the real situation, there are just a bunch of opinions, but few effective measures. Dr. Deming said “Without facts you are just another guy with an opinion.” Once reality is clear, the next step is to thoroughly solve the problem.

Or, alternatively, to play the game “Pass the Buck”. This situation happens, when there are two conditions present.

  1. There is a culture of superficial trouble-shooting: the time, willingness or skills are lacking for analyzing the problems at the root, for developing and implementing countermeasures and then for testing them for effectiveness.
  2. Top leadership does not stop that nonsense.

Many companies fail here.

In such situations a lot of creativity and energy is often spent pushing the problems and the blame further – “the blame game”. For those looking for excuses, here is a list of popular evasions and excuses:

  • No time for that.
  • We are not responsible for that.
  • We are not completely stupid either!
  • Someone would have thought of that.
  • That is not possible at the moment.
  • We have already tried that.
  • The time is not ripe.
  • That was always so.
  • That is not possible anyway.
  • My boss said something else …
  • This is basically correct, but not applicable to us.
  • Sounds pretty good, but I don’t think it works.
  • In theory, that may be true, but it is not practical.
  • I have other commitments.
  • But that’s not how we used to do it.
  • I have nothing to say.
  • We lack the right tools.
  • We need more money, resources, training, magic potion …
  • We’ll do that tomorrow or next week, when we get to it.

So isn`t it a lot better if we wait a little longer for improvement, right? Because, it is their fault over there anyway. We just do [enter your favorite excuse here _____].

If you know of any fancy excuses, please share them in a comment.

Author: Andreas Sattlberger

Andreas Sattlberger delivers Operational Excellence for measureable performance improvement. He has led and implemented numerous strategic and operational projects on Lean Management, Strategy Deployment, Sales Excellence, SCM, Change Management, Digital Transformation and Turnaround. With more than 20 years of industry experience he advises top executives, operational managers and practitioners in scaling excellence for higher growth, sustainable earnings, and international market success. Andreas Sattlberger can be reached at asattlberger(at)lean-works.com and at +43 676 720 9880

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