As a consultant, I have this recurring opportunity to feel smart. I go into a company, and in the first half-hour I’m able to say, “Look at this missed opportunity,” or, “Here’s big problem you haven’t noticed yet.” Big things are not that hard to see.
So, imagine how I felt the other day when I sat down with my long-time associate, Diana Lackner. Diana is returning to work with us after a hiatus, so Caroline and I met with her to review what’s been going on in the business. Within minutes Diana was peppering me with the kinds of perfect questions and insightful observations that I always pat myself on the back for making, when I’m with my clients. I kept thinking, “That’s been right in front of my eyes. Why does it take Diana to tell me this?” I didn’t feel so smart. (At least Diana’s observations were mostly about big opportunities!)
Now, of course, part of the story is that Diana is really smart. But there is an overriding issue that we can all learn from: Being hyper-aware of your own personal business situation is a key to success.
It’s easy to become de-sensitized to your immediate business environment. We get used to things the way they are, and often stop questioning the obvious. A manager stops looking at the reports that show his business is falling off a cliff. Another stops looking at other reports that reveal major opportunities with a certain type of customer. Customer service people hear about major issues from customers, but management doesn’t pay attention. The factory has created awkward work-arounds to accomodate production problems, and the operations VP isn’t aware of it. Sales reps are losing sales do to a glitch in the pricing process, and the sales VP writes it off to another case of sales people whining.
Try this: Be hyper-aware of your personal business situation. Notice what’s going on in your immediate vicinity. Put on the fresh eyes of a consultant, and see what’s really going on in your business. Don’t wait for me to wake you up. Wake yourself up!
A complete understanding of the present is a critical step to inventing your future.