Houston, we’ve had a problem here – Part 2 of 11

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Houston, we’ve had a problem here. These now famous words echo in the minds of all of us old enough to have experienced the late 60’s and early 70’s, and now, even the younger and future generations will know the back story of these words because of the movie, Apollo 13.

Alcoholics Anonymous has made their now famous “Step One” known to everyone, even those that do not have a problem with alcohol, or even know someone with a problem with alcohol.

Step 1. Recognizing we have a problem is the first step in solving that problem.

OneThingology and Theory of Constraints share this philosophy, a philosophy that you must first admit you have a problem to be able to take steps to solve the problem. But, unlike the problem discovered by the crew of Apollo 13 (the exploding oxygen tank number 2 blowing up and taking oxygen tank number 1 with it), most of what we call problems are not problems at all, but symptoms of a problem.

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Our real core problems don’t always go bang. They don’t yell out, here I am. They’re like a disease, hiding in the background, with only the symptoms of the disease out in the open, yelling, look at me, treat me. For some of us, we would not recognize our core problem if it was tap dancing on the end of our nose.

So often, we find ourselves working our fingers to the bone, working ridiculously long hours, working, working, working, but seemingly getting nowhere. We ask ourselves, self, how is it that I can work so hard, but never get ahead? How is it possible, that a top notch team like this can never get ahead of our “problems”? Why does it feel like we are always fighting fires, but never actually extinguishing fires, much less preventing fire?

Let’s use the most common example of this. The universal problem with businesses, small, large and every size in-between. Not charging enough for your products and services, which even in and of itself is almost always the symptom of a core problem that is hiding in the shadows (not knowing your costs). If you are not charging enough for your products and services because you don’t know your costs, just raising your prices is a classic example of treating the symptom of a problem, not the core problem.

You see, if you don’t know your costs, then you still don’t know how much to raise your prices, or when to raise your prices. And if there is one thing in life I can pretty much guarantee you, it is that no one, and I mean no one will say, hey you, your not charging me enough for this product or service. And even this line of thought is assuming you actually know that you are not charging enough for your products and services.

Assuming you don’t know your not charging enough, then what sorts of symptoms might you experience? Typically businesses move enough money around that poor cash flow is not always self evident either. You know something is not right, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You sold a ton of stuff last month, but why is it so hard to get all the bills paid this month? It seems like you never have enough employees to get the work done, you never have enough money to hire new or better employees, you’re always behind the eight ball on technology, and again, there never seems to be enough hours in a day to get everything done that needs to be done.

What if there was One Thing responsible for the majority of the bad things in your life and/or business? Would you see it? Would you recognize it, even if it did not go boom, or have a flashing red light on top of it? Next time we meet in this particular blogasphere, we will talk about Identifying our Constraints, finding the One Thing That Can Affect Everything.

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