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Running in Circles?

Find your first problem and handle it head on.

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QUICK QUESTION: Do you sometimes feel like you’re simply running in circles? Like there’s never enough time to finish what you’re working on because the next wave of challenges washes over you? You can’t move forward if you’re running in circles.

For a lot of companies right now it seems like the world just exploded. Business is back! Orders are flooding in. But, as many companies are still reeling from the labor downsizing they made to survive this last year during COVID-19, there aren’t enough people to actually do the work.

Couple that with the challenges in garment inventory, consumable supply chain shortages, and the never-ending issues with shipping, and it’s enough to make anyone tear their hair out.
lady meditating

Pause for a Minute

What if I told you there was a way to get your sanity back and make sense of what’s happening? Let’s get a better understanding of what’s going on around you so you can make better decisions going forward.

The first step you need to take is an observational one.

Just freeze yourself right where you are. Look around. Sure, you might be able to solve your problems by brute force or working 22 hours a day for a solid week, but there has to be a more sensible solution out there.

Let’s see if we can find that.

Begin by trying to understand where the pain points are originating. Maybe your production crew is more than two weeks late getting a massive amount of jobs out? From the discussions I’ve had with industry leaders these past few weeks, this is currently a common situation. Most are blaming the lack of employees in the workforce as the reason why they can’t keep an accurate production schedule.

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While there may be some truth to that, what if you considered the type of orders you’re accepting in the first place?

Are they profitable? Do they make sense? Take a hard look at what’s on your plate right now. How many jobs on your schedule are you actually excited about from a financial perspective?

What if you increased your minimums? A good chunk of the production day is spent setting up and tearing down jobs. If you increase the minimum quantity per order, you might find you can actually produce more work per day.

Label Your Problem

Maybe your challenge isn’t with the types of orders you’re accepting. Raising the prices or the minimum order quantity won’t solve your particular situation. What then? Try labeling your problem. Once you’ve given a name to the challenge, you can start asking questions and seeking a solution.

But you’re going to have to dig deep and be specific. Generalities won’t help much. Keep asking questions about whatever your underlying issue may be. For this, you need suggestions from your team.

1. What’s not working? If you want a different outcome, you need to do things differently. Ask your staff what changes they think might help.

2. If you focused on one thing to fix the problem, where does that effort go?

Do the research. Verify the one thing. Does it make the most sense? If accurate, this has a flashing “work on me first” sign and will indicate where you need to start.

Multi-Tasking is a Myth

You need to commit to solving the problem, and only the problem. Dedicate your focus and energy on that one thing.

This doesn’t mean you’re going to ignore everything else that’s going on. That’s silly.

The one thing gets the prime attention. From you. By your staff. In your reports, and on your dashboard graphs. Make it front and center in all discussions. It needs to be painfully obvious by everyone in your building as to what’s important.

Your crew knows that when you walk up to them you’re going to ask about it. They better have the answer ready.

Other tasks are going to get handled, but the effort behind improving the one thing gets monumental effort for improvement. All your energy is spent making that a success.

lady multi-tasking

Define the Win

Here’s a question for you. Right now, do you think everyone in your shop knows not only what the one thing they need to focus on might be, but their role in making it happen?

Ambiguity is the breeding ground for mediocrity and delays. You have to define what success looks like. Maybe even on a granular level for each department or employee. Most certainly for yourself.

With that one thing in mind, what processes or systems need to be created to ensure victory? Will you have to create new ones or revamp existing steps? What’s needed to make it happen?

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In the fantastic book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

What systems or processes are you building to ensure that your one thing comes out on top?

man walking on steps

Expect Accountability

At the end of the day, how did it go? Are your people honestly making an effort to change and are you seeing progress, or is it an excuse-a-thon about why something won’t work?

What do the numbers tell you? If you’re measuring performance, you should see changes in your data one way or another once you begin to try new things. (You are measuring, aren’t you?)

Do the work to make the information transparent. Record the numbers. Graph the data. Post the numbers for everyone to see.

When you’re trying to improve that one thing, change might come slowly. There may be some setbacks. It is 100 percent ok. Here’s what you ask:

  • What did we try?
  • What happened?
  • What did we learn?
  • What do we need?
  • What’s the next step?
  • What should we see as an improvement?

One Bite at a Time

Do you know the old joke “How did the hyena eat the elephant?” The answer? “One bite at a time.”

Don’t shoot for drastic changes where everything is dramatically better by tomorrow. That likely won’t happen. Nor will it stick.

Instead, shoot for making small, incremental changes. These stack up. Can you imagine how great your business will run if you commit to making a one percent change every day?

So, stop for a moment. Assess the situation. Find one thing you can commit to that will make the biggest difference. Solve that. Move on to the next problem. Rinse and repeat.
Stop running in circles.

hyena

Marshall Atkinson is the owner of Atkinson Consulting, LLC, based in Mesa, Arizona. He coaches apparel decoration companies on operational efficiency, continuous improvement, workflow strategy, business planning, employee motivation, management, and sustainability. He is a frequent tradeshow speaker, author, and host of two podcasts, as well as co-founder of the Shirt Lab educational company. He can be reached at [email protected]

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