Solving Operational Problems – Categorize, Scope, Allocate

Solving Operational Problems – Categorize, Scope, Allocate

During last year at The Portfolio Partnership we embedded our operational blueprint across many sectors. The most common symptom across all clients? Handing operational problems correctly to get them solved. Yes key operational blueprints regarding marketing and sales, metrics and talent nurturing were needed but fundamentally the culture to solve problems needed to change.

I’ve noted below a simple solution with examples that I hope will help. Execution seems theoretically simple but that’s where the problems start. Stuff only gets done when you really understand the type of problem you are solving, the key issues the solution needs to solve and who is going to own the solution.

Type of Problem – Categorize

There are only three types of problems:

  1. Strategic
  2. Inter-departmental tactical
  3. Departmental tactical
Leaders get confused when they mix them up.
A strategic assignment needs to be treated differently from daily tactical stuff eg an acquisition, a new positioning of the company, a completely new business model. It needs its own project team with formal deliverables, timetables that are realistic given the magnitude of  the task and a clear mandate from the CEO. These projects can be game changers and need to be staffed with the appropriate resources. They require deep thinking and strategic assessment before they are even executed. These projects often involve many departments but first and foremost they are defined by their strategic importance.
Interdepartmental problems are still tactical but need to grabbed and solved by allocating a project manager to drive the solution involving members of the departments that need to be part of the solution. e.g. the process of setting up a new customer involves the Finance department and the Technical Support department. Define who owns the solution, the issues involved and the deadline.
Departmental Problems are problems that need to be fixed within a department e.g. the CRM say ACT requires a new sales process to be implemented. This is purely a concern for the sales department to make it happen.

Scope & Allocate

Often by taking a step back before diving in we get to a better solution.  It’s so important to list the issues that the solution should solve e.g. at one client we identified the need for a protocol for training customers.
Here are some of the issues we needed to solve?

  • What is the definition of on site training?
  • What is the definition of on-line training?
  • Do we offer training at a separate price, include it in the total package of the system, offer it free?
  • How do training videos form part of the solution?
  • At what point in the sales process do we discuss the onboarding of the customer?
  • Who is going to do the training?
  • What level of documentation are we giving to the customer?
These were only some of the issues!
So in the scoping stage we also need to be clear on deadlines and who owns it.
All problems need an owner. I mean one owner. That owner has total jurisdiction on that project. He or she is allowed to ask the CEO to be a member of the solutions team if it is appropriate. The leader of the project is the boss. The organization chart has no relevance inside the walls of a project team. The only agenda that matters is the Project leader of that project. Get stuff done.
The owner’s job is to drive the tasks needed to meet the agreed deadline.
Managing a business becomes a lot less stressful when we break problems down into categories, talk through the scope and allocate owners. Every problem can be solved this way and of course building an operational blueprint to solve problems gives you a tremendous competitive edge to drive growth.

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