Putting Out Fires

Sometimes it’s just one of those days.

When one issue goes away, another one comes up. It can seem like you’re barely keeping your head above water. But at the end of the day, the fires are put out and you’ve managed to keep projects on track and customers happy.

On the car-ride home you think to yourself, “What did I actually get done today? Some of the problems should’ve never come up. Isn’t there a better way?”

Unfortunately, there’s no magic fix to be less busy. However, the days can be more fulfilling when you’re busy solving critical issues, not unnecessary time-suckers. Also, problems can be better managed when they’re anticipated. One way to minimize less important, avoidable issues and keep you one step ahead of the more important problems is to have detailed processes.

Why do annoying issues crop up when you least expect them? There isn’t one ultimate cause, but a combination of factors:

  • Company knowledge isn’t easily shared in an organization. Similar issues may have been resolved in the past, but without any record. This leaves team members with having to recreate solutions.
  • There is no clear protocol for handling issues. Certain problems may require the attention of a senior member. However, information can be gathered and shared ahead of time. Simply passing the buck to the next person without any context only adds time to issues.
  • Poor processes in place create issues. As mentioned in our article “Take Back Control of Your Systems”, inefficiency results from bad processes. Extra and unnecessary steps in a process can create more ways for a person to make a mistake.
  • Focusing on the unimportant. Ask yourself, “Is this problem critical to the business?” A company can be in a bad position when it spends significant time and energy solving a problem that provides very little impact.

One item to note is that not all important issues can be solved in a day. Discerning which issues are short- and long-term will improve the company’s ability to solve problems efficiently. Long-term challenges should be captured and reviewed at the appropriate time e.g. a company’s quarterly strategic meeting. Otherwise, issues are resolved with limited scope & vision.

An attractive solution to immediately increase workflow is technology. However, technology will only amplify what is already in place. If any of the above four factors remain in the company, bottlenecks and fires will only increase. Once these are addressed, investments into technology can have an outstanding payoff to the company.

The day-to-day work doesn’t have to be a grind. That’s not to see you shouldn’t be busy – being challenged in the workplace is essential to growth, but only when time is focused on important matters. If it feels like you’re spending too much time putting out fires and not enough time growing your business, give us a call.