With over 25 years in business improvement under my belt, there is one refrain that I hear again and again: A refrain that continues to be frightening no matter how many times you hear it.

We don't have time

Whether working with clients in a consultancy role or speaking to delegates on our training courses a vast number of people tell us that they wished they had the time and resources to solve a problem that’s been plaguing them for years. In some circumstances, they already have the solution at their fingertips, but keep delaying implementation until they get some free resources.

Companies then get caught in a Catch 22 situation. They don’t have time to solve a problem, but if they solved the problem they would have more time.

The result is that lots of companies are knowingly letting down their clients and customers. They are knowingly wasting money and failing to make the profit that they should. That is why this statement always sends a shiver down my spine.

We have clients who come to us year after year for a proposal to train their people in business improvement or for a consultancy quote in order to solve a costly problem. They say they don’t have the time right now to solve the problem.

However there’s no logic in this approach.

If the problem is costing you money or customer satisfaction you can’t put it off another month or two.  It’s putting off the inevitable but wasting money and resources in the meantime. It may cost you £10,000 to fix the problem, and in isolation that takes a lot of consideration. However, if the problem is costing you £20,000 per month, it’s paid for itself after two weeks.

One of the problems is that leadership teams are not measured in the right way. It should be an appalling admission to have a problem but do nothing about it.

Instead, as long as the results are OK and they’re meeting their targets, there is no pressure to improve: To strive for a better, more efficient service. Priorities are wrong and people don’t want to rock the boat.

The phrase “but this is how we’ve always done it”, is the death knell for businesses. It is easier to put up with the issue which after all has been there for ages rather than take the decision to do something about it. But without innovation and improvement you’re standing still. And if you’re stationary while everyone else is moving forward, you’ll get left behind.

no excusesThere should be no excuses for good managers.

If it is a resource issue, hire some part time or expert support until you’ve got to the bottom of your issue. If it’s budget then you need to speak with data to illustrate the cost of ignoring the problem. Seeing the cost of one month’s delay in black and white can often be enough to kick-start managers into action.

Business improvement is every manager’s responsibility, business improvement solves problems. The difficulty is finding time, resources and people to do something about it. Companies we have worked with that freed up resources and then upskilled their teams have seen amazing results in terms of customer satisfaction and improved margins. It does, however, take a true leader to commit to real business improvement.

The Catch 22 situation is real in business, and it happens every day. But in many cases, you shouldn’t be thinking about whether you can afford to make a change, you should be worrying about whether you can afford not to.

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