The number one problem I see is lack of clarity on the problem statement. Executives are particularly poor at the practice of clearly articulating a fact-based statement about ‘what problem we are solving?’ What hurts? How much? I call it Executive Jeopardy. Like the TV game show, where they tell you the answer and you have to guess what the question is. Execs are notorious for telling team members, go do x. It feels like real leadership to bark orders, to be the expert, right? Not so much. On the employee side, because specialists live in a world of details, process and rules, they often hear the do x and jump straight to the fastest and most expedient way to accomplish the execs OpEx idea, whether it is related to the cause of the pain or not. Hold back, it is not unreasonable to ask clarifying questions of your execs. What is the problem? What are the symptoms? When does it happen? How often does it happen? Do we know or we just have a hunch? Execs often got to their senior positions by being intuitive, so their hunches and experience are often spot on but can be off frequently enough to be problematic. And, change management wise, it is always better to have the team members responsible for taking action self-discover the answers. Clumsy, rushed, incomplete communication about the problem statement is the biggest driver of OpEx initiatives failing to achieve their intended outcomes in my experience.
About Michael Gray: Michael Gray has over 25 years in the automotive and technology industries and is known for unlocking profit by transforming quality into a strategic differentiator. His expertise as problem decoder was honed during a decade in Japan where he was a key driver of what became a dramatic turnaround. A domestic Japan auto customer perceived his firm’s audio products to be of lower quality, risky and foreign, demanding third-party inspection. By diplomatically bridging the customer’s expectations and the design and manufacturing team capability, he helped his firm to become a long-term trusted partner with high-quality products delivered direct-to-line. In Silicon Valley via various quality and engineering leadership roles, Mr. Gray has helped fast-paced, innovation-centric technology companies ensure that the right products were built right. Quality improvements reduced on-going warranty by millions and retained many critical accounts, and even more powerfully, by applying quality tools to areas like strategic planning and product management, he has helped firms to direct critical resources on unmet customer needs, tapping into tens of millions in market opportunity.