As is my tendency, I put myself on auto-pilot to make the commute home each day. I take the same road, the same turns and find some level of comfort in passing the same landmarks each day. Things are so well timed that, barring accidents or malfunctioning traffic lights, I can get from office parking lot to home driveway in about 22 minutes. But a few weeks ago, I was startled to find a sign in the middle of the road “Detour – Road Closed for Construction.” An unexpected obstacle.
Momentarily startled, I suddenly had to re-think my plan and make some decisions. Do I turn right or left? Should I double-back and take an alternate route altogether? How could they do this to me with no warning – suddenly throw a roadblock in my way? I have a plan and a schedule!
Obstacles surface in the workplace all the time. A change in our customer base. A new wrinkle that arises when regulations are enacted that we didn’t anticipate. The loss of a key staff member who owned a process and had all the plans for moving a new product or idea to market.
There are also, quite often, long-standing obstacles to success – legacy processes, organizational norms or ‘ways of doing things,” lack of understanding or comprehension among team members. Sometimes, one stubborn person may be an obstacle unto themselves.
Leaders will always be on the lookout for obstacles and have the ability to identify what’s impeding the journey and if (and how) these deterrents can be removed. Is it a process issue? Or a people issue? And what to do about it?
Is it something as simple as placing down a traffic cone to redirect traffic . . . or shutting down the road entirely and taking a full-scale detour on the journey?