Painted yourself into a corner? We’ve all been there. For this entry, ask yourself this important question:
How did you get here?
It felt like a bad dream. You hoped that you would wake up today and everything would be fine. You head back to your field to check on “the tractor” and there it is in the mud. Stuck right where you left it.
Getting stuck doesn’t make you a failure—it makes you human
For today, accept that you are stuck and now you need to look for clues. Assess the situation and clear your mind.
Getting your company’s productivity out of a rut will require you to mentally back up, and determine how you got here.
There could be lots of reasons. Here are some examples to inspire your brainstorming.
Bust out a paper and pen, or a keyboard, and take some personal notes for yourself. Our lives are busy, and good ideas can get lost.
The first thing to consider is time constraints.
When we are feeling pressure to meet deadlines, our sense of time can get distorted.
When this time distortion occurs we are more likely to take risks and this is often when accidents happen.
It happens and we need to be mindful of it. However, some risk-taking needs to happen—it’s part of starting and building a company—but they should be calculated risks. Were yours?
Setting unrealistic deadlines or setting expectations too high can bog you down.
Let’s imagine a prototype for a simple design element of your medical device was scheduled to take a week.
What if it’s already going on 3 weeks and still not done?
Ask yourself three questions:
- Did you set realistic deadlines?
- Did you calculate for delays?
- And were the tasks achievable with the resources you had?
Think about what needs to be done now and what can be done later. It is easy to take on too much but it’s not possible to do everything at once.
There is a time and a place for everything.
The Human Factors
Inexperience can be another factor.
Were you ready for this task?
How are you supposed to know what to do if you have never done it before? You can make educated guesses, but not having the actual experience makes it an interesting challenge.
Fear not. You learn as you go.
It cannot be stressed enough that being physically healthy and emotionally content is very important.
How is your state of mind? Are you taking care of yourself?
It also makes sense to take a look at your team.
What is their level of experience? Are they working well together?
Underlying issues lurking within a team can have unexpected impacts on the entire organization and its system.
“I had no choice.”
Yes, there are some points where it will feel like there were no other options.
This can be due to a lack of resources or a lack of experience. Or maybe you are relying on incorrect advice, or advice that isn’t correct for you.
Same goes for assumptions. They may seem completely logical or common sense but there are things out there that will surprise you.
Tread carefully before you go all in with what you choose to do. Check in with your most trusted advisors before entering unknown terrain.
They have great advice for navigating the path to market.
Sometimes we focus on the right task… but at the wrong time.
For example, having a complete prototype to display at a milestone meeting can absorb an enormous amount of resources.
Is this really the most important target to aim at right now? Perhaps what investors are looking for is the removal of a technical uncertainty.
Then having validation data to support a key design element would be far more important at that time rather than ensuring all design elements have been vetted for manufacturing.
It’s not that the latter isn’t an important developmental task, it is (extremely), but focusing on a time-consuming task rather than one that what will move you forward will bog you down. The time-consuming task can wait.
Were you spending your energy wisely?
Focusing your aim on the wrong tasks can also get you in a rut.
Maybe you’re trying to please too many stakeholders instead of focusing on a few, or you’ve been rushing around in circles because you don’t have a robust plan.
When we don’t have a clear plan with well-defined purposes or definitions we can stray from the path and end up in a rut.
There are many things to focus on as you journey to “harvest season” and the best thing you can do is make a plan and set realistic goals before you set out.
Think about the goals you had before you were stuck, and then decide if you need to rethink some of them.
Also, think about what tasks distract you from your focus.
Think about the Sirens in “The Odyssey.” Besides plugging your ears with beeswax and tieing you and your team up to a mast, what are you doing to eliminate distractions?
It would help to make a list; “goals and distractions.”
In this article, we talk about how to use this list.
So hopefully now you have a good idea of what happened and “how you got here”.
The most important reason we need to do mental backtrack is: to identify what went wrong so you can prevent it next time.
We learn our most valuable lessons through trial and error.
Don’t lose your confidence! In the next entry, we explain tools that will get you moving forward again.