Having Some Operational Issues

Quick Summary: Planning for the unexpected is an effective method of dealing with operational issues beforehand.


Unexpected operational issues are common, daily occurrences that appear during every business stage and will continue to re-occur forever.  The key is to attempt to forecast them and, most importantly, develop standard approaches to respond and not react.  Most surprises are really not surprises: someone already knew.  Thinking in terms of “what-if” will result in far more effective resolutions when the issues appear.

The initial reaction to reading the title of this stage, Having Operational Issues, may elicit the quick response of “Of course. Operational issues occur every day and every night, non-stop.”  It is hard to argue with that observation.  Clearly, operational issues occur in every one of the business stages previously described.  The overlap is obvious when the articles included in this stage are compared to the articles included in most of the other identified business stages.  This stage was created expressly for the user who has probably not reviewed the previous stages and is in search of some guidance to help them address a current, seemingly critical issue.

For those individuals who are looking for advice on how to address a critical issue, the best advice is to jump to Chapter 4.02, Responding versus Reacting.  The articles in that chapter discuss the fundamental difference between responding to an event instead of reacting to it.  In the day-to-day, interrupt driven climate, it is easy to react quickly instead of responding thoughtfully.  Two of the articles in that chapter, “Stop, Look, and Listen” and “When Things Go Wrong” include the same recommendation that is also repeated below.  It suggests a method when one encounters unexpected operational issues.

When you receive the email, the phone call, or when someone comes bursting into your office with the apparent crisis, follow a simple method that will help you stay in control.

  • First, count to 100 by seventeens (17, 34, 51, 68…).   That exercise will force you to slow down for a few seconds.  When you get good at counting by seventeens, pick another prime number and do the same thing.
  • Second, ask one question: “Is this issue fatal to the business now?”  If it truly is, drop what you are doing and respond.
  • Third, if not fatal, ask another question: “Who is best equipped to handle this issue besides me?”  At first, as a lone entrepreneur or in a very small organization, you may be the only available person.  Independent of the answer to the “who is the best person” question ask one more question.
  • Fourth, ask: “How does this issue compare in importance to all of the other issues we are dealing with at this moment, and how should it be prioritized?”

Think of the articles associated with this stage as arrows that are already in your quiver that are ready to be selected and fired at the operational issue that has suddenly appeared.  As described above, if you have pre-read the articles, you can remember the appropriate one when you are in the midst of counting to 100 by seventeens and are formulating a response, and not a reaction.


Article Number : 1.030108   

A Handy Reference Guide for Executives and Managers at All Levels.

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