THE BLOG

Are Your Problems Repeating Themselves?

02/19/2015 08:08 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015

Have you ever been ready to leave your house for work in the morning and couldn't find your car keys? Of course, most of us have had that experience at some time. We misplaced our keys and had to tear the house apart until we found them.

The bigger question is, has this happened more than once?

What you don't fix, will persist.

This is exactly what happens to us in our businesses. We have problems that repeat themselves over and over again, and we do nothing to fix them. We simply react each time they happen. These problems are called systemic problems. They reoccur and we deal with them each and every time they happen, but we never really fix them.

How many times have you lost a deal because something was wrong or missing from your proposal, only to have the same thing happen on the next proposal? How many times have you had a customer problem that required significant effort to resolve, only to have the same problem happen again with another customer? Or maybe there is an employee issue that HR has to deal with over and over again with different employees. These are just a few examples of systemic problems. I'll bet you can name a number of these in your own organization.

We allow problems to repeat themselves and persist, dealing with them as they occur, but never really identifying the cause and stopping it. Let's look at the example of the car keys. If you misplace your car keys more than a couple of times, you are allowing the same problem to repeat itself.

The simple solution is to devise a method to control the location of your car keys. In my case, I put a small bowl on a table near the door. When I get home, I drop my car keys in the bowl, and sure enough, they are still there in the morning when I leave for work. Problem solved! Some people might put a hook on the wall and hang them there; others might put a nail on the back of the door, and hang their keys there. Whatever solution they come up with, the bottom line is that they found a way to solve a systemic problem so it doesn't happen again.

The lesson here is that every manager, at every level, should be identifying the systemic problems in their organizations, and developing solutions to solve the problems and keep them from recurring, not simply addressing them each time they pop up.

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC's premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Contact Mike for an executive coaching session.