When it comes to information, entertainment, finding your way around and communications these days, we more or less literally have it all at our fingertips and available to us just about anywhere. We can even order and pay for coffee to pick up on our way from the commuter train to the office – no line ups for delays. We can book hotels, airlines and rental cars at the touch of our fingers with apps that show us the cheapest options.
We live in a world where instant gratification is a reality in many aspects of our private lives. Consumer electronics has transformed a great deal of business – basically anything where there is a service or goods that a consumer might buy on their own, we can get it easily and immediately. We’ve grown used to instant gratification in much of our personal lives, and many of us expect it all the time. We sometimes forget that behind all that there is often someone, or an army of people, making things happen in the physical world. After you order that drink, a barista in your favorite coffee shop still has to make your double low fat, triple Grande latte that you just ordered, not to mention the dozen others that other people ordered, and thank goodness there is travel time from that commuter train to your Latte rendezvous or you might be disappointed in their time saving app.
At the risk of upsetting people, we’ve grown so used to things happening quickly and easily that we’ve begun to forget what happens behind the scenes to provide that convenience and immediacy. That goes even further into a sense of impatience when we must wait.
At work such immediacy, except for getting your coffee, is lost. The instant gratification often stops when it comes to business processes and decisions. It gets a good deal trickier and far less immediate when we no longer have the sole authority to make the decision. It is even trickier still if, after we’ve got the decision, we need to get someone else to do something that would result in achieving the results we want.
Click submit for approval and wait – sometimes long and sometimes you won’t even get an answer. Frustrated? Once you get an answer, hitting re-submit won’t change it from “not approved” to, “approved.” Frustrated yet? If it’s approved, we can’t then just “swipe right” to find the ideal employee or tap our finger on a display of MTBF to suddenly improve our plant reliability. But we are impatient and by this point, when it’s time for action, we are probably a little bit (maybe even a lot) frustrated that it has taken us so long to get to this point. After all, you knew what had to be done long ago and just needed the right people to give you the green light. And now, even if action is entirely within our control, we can seldom make things happen and deliver the desired results immediately.
In the retail analogy, our role has changed from customer to barista. We’ve got to produce the goods now and they better satisfy a demanding customer – our boss!
Some of the problems are not going to be solved quickly. We fool ourselves if we think that complex problems can be resolved as quickly as we order lunch. The problems you are being paid to solve wouldn’t be there if lesser people knew how to solve them before you. Often these business problems, low plant reliability, high maintenance costs, high variation in production output volume or quality, poor compliance to a PM schedule, etc., took years to evolve. Like a big knot, they won’t unravel with one tug on a loose end. And forget cheaply. In all likelihood, that same big mess is a result (perhaps one of many results) of cost cutting, refusal to invest, ignoring of good advice from the workforce and other sins. Even with the noblest and sincerest of intentions, those past sins (of others of course) have generated resentment and inertia towards change. Management may no longer be trusted by those who need to do the work of changing and there may be nothing in it for them (or at least they may perceive it that way).
When was the last time you willingly said yes to something that would pay you less or demand work from you without getting anything extra?
You can get advice about your problems. Sometimes it will come cheaply, easily and sometimes free. The guy who retired last year can come back and help you for a price. He will be cheaper than a professional consultant but don’t forget, he may have been part of the problem before. What is it about his retirement that has changed that? Or has your organization changed and now it is far more receptive to his ideas?
And what about free advice? The internet is full of that – some of it useful and valuable, some of it is pure none-sense. None of it comes with a warning label (which many would ignore anyway). Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. It may seem to be free, but is it?
We shouldn’t reasonably expect that business problems today can be solved by a stranger who contributes a post to a discussion group with little background information. While those discussions often have merit, they are not substitutes for mentoring, coaching or a solid evaluation by professionals.
They are a hodge-podge of ideas and information, mostly useful and well-intended when taken in the right context, but often failing to follow logically from one individuals’ input to the next. Comments get out of sequence and out of context and can even drift onto whatever favorite topic the contributor chooses to present. The odd opinion can send the whole thing spiraling in new directions. Try it – write something controversial and watch what happens.
One person’s quick solution that has “worked every time” is trampled by others who have other advice for you because their experience was different. They may even all be perfectly valid, but are they for you? Sometimes these discussions can be entertaining, but will they help you? If you turn to discussion groups, be very careful. Consider what’s there, but don’t always assume it all comes from credible sources and that it is actually applicable to your unique circumstances.
Good advice that is applicable to your circumstances will rarely come in text message sized chunks, curt remarks or even long explanations of someone’s experience. It must be relevant, considerate of your circumstances and situation and it is unlikely to come for free. We are open to providing a small amount of free consulting to our potential clients but unless the problem is absolutely trivial it won’t be solved in a single conversation.
Finally, once you get answers you are comfortable with (whether or not you paid for them), then you will need to implement the advice. Bear in mind that it probably took a long time to get where you are today – don’t expect it will change suddenly or without resistance. Unless you make changes to the way you and others work your career, you are well advised to get some help from those who do.
In this world we work in (not as consumers) there are no quick fixes, no cheap fixes and looking for them almost always leads to bigger problems later.