The What and How of Solving Business Problems

by: Doug Michaelides

Businesses typically face two types of problems. The first is the “what” problems, as in, “what should we do?” The second is the “how” problems, as in, “how do we do it?” In most companies, these questions are the domain of different members of the organization: managers get the “whats” and their staff gets the “hows”.

Over the course of a long career people high up in the organization actually become “what” specialists, progressively forgetting their “how” skills. Ask your VP of Marketing to build a website or implement a social media campaign on her own and you’ll see what I mean. She relies on her (usually younger) staff to know how to turn her big ideas into action. In fact, one of the first signs that someone is ready for a promotion is that they display self-direction. These high performers are able to address both “what” and “how” within their scope of responsibilities.

When things stop getting done in a business, it is usually because there is a gap in capability to address “what” and “how” questions. If nobody knows what to do, you can hire a management consultant to develop a strategy (which hopefully you can implement yourself). If you know what needs to get done but don’t have people who know how to do it, you can engage a skilled contractor or an outsourced workforce solution provider like Creative Niche. But what about when you know neither what to do nor how to do it?

This may be caused by the departure of a key staff member but frequently it is a result of the business trying to move into unfamiliar territory – targeting a new market, facing a new competitive challenge or grappling with the changing operational demands of growth. In these cases, the organization may flounder, either not addressing the issue at all or making repeated attempts but getting little progress. A company mired in this situation loses momentum and its employees lose motivation just when you need them to rise to the opportunities!

That’s where a special type of “hands on” consultant can help – someone that is a switch hitter. From years of experience in their area of specialty they know what to do, and because they are a hands-on practitioner, they can guide implementation. Bring them on for a project or as an interim player/coach to get the job done while developing your staff. It’s a way of simultaneously overcoming the hurdles of “what” and “how” to break the log jam and move the business to the next level.

So that’s the “what” and “how” of solving business problems with outside help…I’ll let you figure out the “who” for yourself!

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