An effective operation may have bad days, but they are a rarity.
When you walk through operations, is the angst palpable? Clearly that swamp monster environment should be prevented, but it may happen anyway. How many times and for how long do you find that operational stress acceptable? How many times and for how long do your employees tolerate it?
Is meaningful progress being made and are employees involved in that? Manhandling a mess may shape-change the mess, but it won’t replace it with effective operations. Throwing resources at a problem may feel good but won’t get to root cause.
With an intention to “do something” executives can be tempted to dig in with their pre-leadership topic expertise. But seriously, does that make anything better for tomorrow? Leaders must successfully transition their thinking from tactical to strategic. Brainstorming is one thing; relying on leaders to provide tactical solutions in another entirely.
You can’t be sucked into the swamp monster without your permission. If you are expediting, something is dreadfully wrong. If you’re doing nothing long term of substance to kill the monster and prevent his return, something is dreadfully wrong.
Your job is not to expedite, not to do the jobs of others, nor to hope things will get better. Your job is to anticipate, invest, and ensure others have what they need for success.
It is routine for every employee to be aware of both problematic patterns and desirable patterns in effective operations. It is routine for those same employees to develop and implement fixes, prevent re-occurrence, or reinforce positive patterns through root cause problem solving.
When, for whatever reason, that is not happening, leadership has failed.
Or has not yet succeeded.
With that description as the objective, leadership must prioritize observing patterns and the processes to succeed within them: processes that exist, those that are not functioning well, those that should exist but don’t, and those that exist but shouldn’t.
If you can’t bring greater value to your organization by thinking, guiding, providing course correction, and giving the team what it needs than you can by taping boxes or carrying paperwork, your business needs a new leader.
Thinking may not look or feel like work, but it is usually the most important work a leader can do.
Arm wrestling the swamp monster is not work, but it is exhausting.