Speak to just about any company and, if their honest, there will be some immediate issue that is vexing them – the alligator nearest the canoe – that one issue which is taking up 90% of their mental and emotional effort and that is distracting them from doing other, equally important work.
But here’s the thing – in those companies when the same type of issue springs up over and over again, it’s time to step back and consider if there is some systemic, or strategic reason behind the problem.
Many of you will have heard of the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. It was developed by John Boyd, a US Air Force Colonel who wanted to know why technically inferior enemy planes were winning dogfights. It transpired that the enemy had greater cockpit visibility, enabling them to orient, decide and act more quickly.
It’s a superb piece of thinking – astute yet simple. So how can we use this to get rid of the alligators?
The key lies in the second step – orient.
In those companies where the same alligators keep appearing, the natural response is to try and hit them over the head. This is perilous and may be unnecessary. We have OBSERVED that the issue has arisen/keeps arising, we ORIENT ourselves to the situation by asking the question WHY?
Why do these alligators keep appearing? Is it because I decided to canoe in the river marked “no canoeing – risk of death by alligators?”. Is it because we are carrying raw meat which is dripping blood into the water. Is it because we are not paddling faster enough? Or have we chosen the wrong time of day when the alligators all come out to feed?
Now with the broad audience that will read this, I can only leave it up to you to decide how the metaphor might apply to your business. But taking this vital step; to critically analyse; to root assumptions in facts and figures; this is time and effort very well spent which will empower you to DECIDE how you should change and then ACT to implement that change.