How do you know when a business problem is so big that it is time to turn the page versus riding out the rough waters. It’s often not an easy thing to discern because business, like life, is cyclical. The challenge is knowing whether the down cycle is just that – a down cycle – or instead represents something more permanent.
The answer requires both a business analysis, as well as a more “visionary” analysis. Here is what I mean: In Buddhism, bodhi means “awakened wisdom,” and it is under the bodhi tree that the Buddha is said to have become enlightened. I think that there is meaning and purpose and power in a business crisis. True business enlightenment comes when one realizes that the problem might be a manifestation of something that was requiring attention for some time. Giving it the attention it needs may allow you to turn things around.
Here’s an example: In the best-selling business book Fish, authors Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen tell the tale of Mary Jane Ramierez, recently widowed and the mother of two, who is asked to turnaround her company’s problematic operations department; the so-called “toxic energy dump.”
Ms. Ramierez was at first puzzled, but then (coming from her perspective of living in the Pacific Northwest) she took her cue from the fun-loving, fish-throwing employees at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. For those of you who haven’t been there, part of the experience of the place is watching the fish market employees happily and loudly toss huge fish back and forth in front of the place.
Seeing the fish-tossers work, Ms. Ramierez decided that was missing in the operations department at her place of work was that sense of fun; of enjoying work. So she decided to get her co-workers to take a cue from the happy fish throwers, they did, and in the process, their workplace became a lighter, more playful, more fun-loving, better place to work.
Ms. Ramierez’s Fish crew learned their lessons and changed their ways. That’s what happens when you correctly identify a problem.
So here is the process:
1. Crisis: We have a problem! When a problem arises, the natural tendency for most people or organizations is to avoid it, pass the buck, hope it will go away, or deal with it quickly and move on. The secret however is to look at the problem as the potential seed for greater renewal.
2. Analysis: After confronting the painful reality of the situation, the next task is to correctly analyze what has gone wrong. Here is where the expertise and experience of your franchisor may come in handy. So what is the real problem?
3. Gestation: A plan of action that deals with root problems is formulated, explained to the team, and implemented.
4. Renewal: The plan is carried out, and things change, hopefully for the better.
There is a fundamental difference between seeing a problem as a problem and seeing a problem as a hint. The enlightened business master will know that finding the opportunity in the problem is not just rhetoric, it is in fact what works.