You can see it, but can you get there?


A Clear Goal Is Essential, But Getting There Is Complicated! 


Native Americans had an approach to this problem that was quite different than modern Americans would use.  They would paddle across the lake, portage the canoe across the land and then get back in the canoe to go to the next stop on the journey.  Today, we could use more and different people, processes and technology to make the exact same journey.   But which is better depends a lot on the situation and circumstances.


In a previous assignment, we were asked to help a start-up team to plan for the operation of a new long-distance carrier.  The goal of "what" was clear - and planning how we would enter the business and operate in that very competitive environment made us bend some assumptions.  We led a team in the task of defining the "how" and developed a plan that threw out conventions to be higher quality and lower cost by paying our operations force more than the norm.


This counter-intuitive approach demanded a broader range of skills and performance levels in the new operations environment.  We redefined the assumptions about the jobs - and needed not just functional specialists, but broader skills to support technical, managerial and customer service needs in each of the processes. Compensation for such skills cost us more in annual salary and benefits.  So how did we save money?


When we focused on the skills needed in the processes, it became obvious that we didn't need to hand off issues - anyone was capable of handling any issue.  It wasn't easy to find and hire, train and retain the right people to fill these positions, but we did.  And we saved the organization millions of dollars a year by eliminating handoffs.


We also found that as the leadership and competitive situation changed, the issue would be revisited, over and over again.  And, the original plan had to be modified in some ways to deal with the new competitive and technical environment.


We demonstrated that there are many ways to get where you want to go, and some of them are made complex by our assumptions, some by our choices, and some by the environment we can't control.  It's good to be adaptable in your thinking and flexible in execution of the plan.  And, it's great to get the whole team to the destination together.


What are your similar experiences?  What are different solutions you’ve implemented?  What questions do you have for me?

~ Dennis Sergent