You SEE a lot. Let’s loosely categorize everything that you SEE to help in a quest to focus.

Do you SEE issues that represent things that actually went wrong in the past? Do you notice problems or opportunities you could consider present realities to address? Finally what are you visioning that will occur, by choice or inevitability, in the future? These are often so mixed together that progress becomes difficult to make on any one of them. Everyone just SEEs a very full plate.


Past problems:  these are products, services, operations, etc. that have already been designed and were working but broke. Effort (time and money) is required to find out why they broke, fix it, and fix any soured relationships with the people that depended on it. Typically called fire-fighting, it can eat up so much of a company's resources that it's hard to find any money left over to grow the business. The irony is that fire-fighting is often very motivating and satisfying: the problem is at hand, it's clear, it's compelling and, when solved, everyone is happy. A fire-fighting culture is an expensive problem.

Think of a well-trained city fire department. They know their stuff, act quickly and minimize loss. The city treats the fire department as a necessary but not sufficient service of a flourishing community. And when the fire fighters learn about what caused fires, citizens listen and pass laws if that would help prevent fires in the future. Does your organization treat crisis like that?

Present problems/opportunities: consider present problems as those selected and prioritized out of choice. Improving processes to reduce costs or satisfy customers, hiring the right talent and properly equipping them, measuring all aspects of the operation better to see where a difference can be made.

Think of a flourishing city. Taxes are collected and jobs identified to insure people are safe, utilities are available, streets and sanitation are maintained and kids get educated. Everyone involved sees opportunities to improve safety, education, maintenance, etc. and those issues are raised, prioritized and acted upon. This could be considered the present activities of a flourishing city. Companies usually focus on present operations to make them more efficient and cheaper in order to increase profits. Flourishing companies take good care of their “citizens” as well.

Future opportunities: “innovate or die!” lands in this category. Any change to the size or direction of the organization, usually involving risk, can be considered a future opportunity. New products may land in this category or the “present” category depending on the level of disruption and risk required to scale and deliver the new product to customers.

What is the city metaphor? Maybe a developer proposes a building project that everyone can see will change the scale and nature of their community - some think for the better and some think for the worse. Or maybe a new highway is coming close to town and threatens the very supply of customers that spend money as they pass through. Or maybe a new business announces a new plant that will add 50% more jobs opportunities for the area. Positive or negative, big changes are disruptive. And carry risk. Or maybe the city drafts a city vision to direct future growth.

Question: are you interested in addressing past, present or future problems/opportunities?

It's important to SEE clearly what your priorities are: investments in past, present and future problems yield significantly different results. Everyone understands the importance of customer satisfaction, cash flow and profit; how you deal with what you SEE will make a difference between getting by and growing a flourishing , sustainable organization.

SEE better and you will solve better!

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