Secret Techniques to Overcoming Obstacles as a Manager or Consultant
Published: July 09, 2012
Over the years, I have had to opportunity to manage different groups and perhaps more importantly observe how different managers and consultants face obstacles. Often these techniques for addressing obstacles are passed down through mentorship or peer exchanges, and as such, these techniques are less documented. Here are some of the techniques that come to mind and are especially more common in entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial situations:
The Experiment – In this case the obstacle that the manager wants to overcome is to make forward progress into an unknown area. For example, suppose a manager wants to adapt a software product for an adjacent customer market. The manager may allocate a budget to a small business development and delivery team to explore and develop a lead customer in the new market.
The Audition – In some cases, the problem to be tackled is either new or the prime resource to deliver is an unknown. For example, suppose the manager needs someone to serve as the principal consultant to lead a new group of services professionals. The unspoken audition may be that the manager may want the principal to lead one engagement with key folks on the delivery team as part of the engagement. The other aspect of the audition may be to have the candidate assist with proposal development and lead an aspect of a customer sales pitch meeting.
The Process Versus Milestones Approach – Some situations arise where it is not possible for one group to dictate the larger process that a company (or another group) should follow. In these cases, the basis of the conversation can be shifted so that groups agree to measure key milestones and outputs. For example, suppose one internal group wants a sales organization to follow a certain process to control focus and quality of customer messaging. While the internal group may find it difficult to instill explicit processes within the other group, the two groups can agree to have review meeting milestones and measurements to assess focus and quality indirectly. So the technique is based on the concept that processes and milestones go hand-in-hand. If one has trouble on the process, try working from milestones angle instead.
The Associations Versus Strategic Approach – Strategy ideally comes before tactics. However, strategy often requires a lot of top-down thinking and heavy analytical brain power. For example, in top-down marketing one may need to define targeting and positioning methods after one has done a complete analysis of the customer segments, value propositions, competitors, company strengths, etc. Yet the battles in the field are happening today & right now. What are the soldiers supposed to do at this moment? Here’s where intuitive thinking, improv, and emergent strategies come to mind. In these cases, immediate tactics are based on doing something consistent with what has been done in the past, creating connections, or taking actions that create consistent associations (such as brand associations).
There are obviously many more techniques that managers use for overcoming obstacles in dynamic situations. What are some techniques that you’ve learned in the field?
About the Author: Steve Shu provides management consulting and business development services with specialties in strategy, operations, high-tech and growth-phase company situations. Prior to these efforts, Steve has held a number of consulting, interim management, and management roles, including as a principal consultant and practice leader with Nortel Business Consulting, Vice President of Operations and Business Development for FiveSight (acquired by Intalio), COO for 21Publish, and management consultant with Pittiglio Rabin Todd and McGrath (acquired by PwC). Steve has consulted to numerous clients throughout his career from startups to Fortune 500 companies with primary sectors in software, services, and technology.
Steve holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and both an ME and BS in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. He has attended Duke’s Fuqua School of Business executive education training on Dynamic Management. He is also an Assistant Professor in the business school at Irvine University.
Steve maintains a professional blog at Steve Shu Consulting.
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