Torbjörn was a classmate of mine. He was a very nice guy who always smiled a warm smile. In addition to studying the core subjects together, we also hung out together on some electives, such as Spanish. We had a lot of fun together during our studies.
I had contact with him again some time ago, after 30 years. It turned out that he had been having some financial difficulties. For many years he has constantly failed to pay the bills, because when they came to him by post, he chose to hide them away instead of paying them.
It wasn’t because he had a poor income, because he was making good money in a well-paid job. He’s not unintelligent either, I know that after so many years together. There was something else that made him not want to pay. He chose to deceive himself. So instead of the invoices being there on the kitchen table to be paid, he hid them away, thinking that they don’t exist.
Torbjörn lacked a clear sense of consequence. He chose not to see that it was better to pay the bill now, than to have claims and the bailiff after him. He chose to believe that those regular bills for electricity, water, rent, etc., were less important to pay than those for his newly purchased computer.
– Why are you telling us this Matts, you may ask, and what does it have to do with Business Excellence and improvement work?
Well, I all too often come across businesses that do what Torbjörn does. Not about the economy, but about problem areas in the business. They hide their problems and think they will go away.
Everyone knows that there are obvious problems in the business, such as;
- high sick leave,
- irritation of employees,
- dissatisfied “customers” (whatever they call them),
- poor quality, and
- a tight budget.
But they choose not to tackle the problems. They choose to look at something else, such as that it is not themselves that should be dealt with. But there are external things that would have to happen for improvement to happen. “If only we could…” and then something comes along that someone else should have put up with.
Now that they are choosing not to tackle the problems, they will unfortunately suffer even more in the near future.
- People who go home sick make those who are left work even harder.
- This makes them sad and they leave the workplace, which in turn means even more work for those who remain.
- Or the employees will resign, which will result in a poorer service to the “customers”.
- It is forced to hire staff to replace critical supplies, which costs more than it budgeted for and more than it would have if regular staff had done the job.
- There are increasing complaints from customers that the service they expect is not being provided, which for public services often leads to newspaper articles about how bad things are.
- Which leads to even more sad staff and difficulties in getting new staff on board.
- And so on…
What you get is a negative spiral that slowly but surely lowers business. The staff becomes even more dissatisfied, the customers too, and the economy becomes a big problem.
If you don’t want the negative consequences to keep growing, you have to take action to improve things here and now. There are no shortcuts. The outside world will demand action to continue its operations. Otherwise you have to go through daily hardships and difficulties.
So don’t do what Torbjörn did and hide the problems you see in your business, but tackle them directly. Do it by working on continuous improvement. And if you haven’t already started, start this week.