Skip to content

Nested problems, nested solutions (6): the management problem

This is part of a series thinking through the different layers involved in solving real-world problems. It’s a sketch of ideas in process.

So now you’re operating: you’ve got a solution to a problem that people want, and you’ve got the systems and people in place that you need to make it scaleable and repeatable.

By now you’ve probably got a lot of balls in the air:

  • A product or service that works, but that’s probably still a work in progress;
  • Promises to customers to keep and relationships to maintain;
  • New customers or clients to find or respond to;
  • Supply chains or production schedules to coordinate and relationships with suppliers to cultivate;
  • Information to collect and store, then (ha!) analyse and act on;
  • You might have investors, donors or other stakeholders to communicate with;
  • Reports to write;
  • Payments to make and legal obligations to meet;
  • Staff to manage, arguments to settle, noses to put back in joint.

These are just the start.

The problem here is how to make all of these things happen – and happen well – while still doing your own jobs without collapsing under the weight of the responsibility or being driven mad by the multiple demands on your time and attention?

The answer is that you’ve got to learn to manage, building structures and systems around your structures and systems, and probably to find people to manage them.

This is the realm of standards, specifications, and job descriptions – what Michael E. Gerber calls “working on your business, not in your business,” – and the steely determination to get things done. If your business or organisation is wealthy enough to consistently hire highly talented people, this problem might take care of itself. For most of us, it means investing huge amounts of thought and time into getting clarity about what needs to happen and when, who is going to do it, and what support they’re going to need to do it consistently well.

You’re no longer a single instrument or even a one-man band: the management problem demands that you become both composer and conductor in an orchestra of your own design. Doing this well is a combination of designing systems and fostering a culture – writing scripts and setting tone – that will make it possible for the organisation to achieve its goals.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...