in Scaling, Startups

Don’t Pre-Solve Secondary Problems


We all do this, its human instinct. Novice engineers build scalability into Alpha versions of product where the primary problem is getting user number one. Office managers research and buy new equipment when there is little downside to letting the old equipment finally break and then buying a new. Sales Managers agonize over commission plans for pricing plans that have never sold (and may never sell) when the primary problem is hiring a team.

The amount of effort and opportunity cost wasted in solving problems that will never occur or will occur much later than people think is immense. This is most evident in company that are scaling as all processes are being pushed to their limit. This problem is difficult to spot and rectify as the people involved in wastefully pre-solving problems think and can justify that they are being productive … but they are not.

Why

  • People’s ability to predict the next most important problem is poor. Typically it’s an entirely unpredictable unkown unkown opportunity or problems that reveals itself.
  • The longer you leave a secondary problem the more information you gather allowing you to create a better solution for when you have to solve it.
  • The context of the problem and the solution frequently change making the original solution defunct.
  • The longer you leave a problem the more likely you will be able to leapfrog solutions

Your job, as CEO, is to resist pre-solving secondary problem. Now don’t take this too far, there are lots of secondary problems that have to be pre-solved. For example don’t wait until you run out of office space before you start looking for a new premises. In general, let secondary problems break before you fix them.

Primary and Secondary Problem

This only applies to secondary problems. For example a Sales Manager’s primary problem might be getting new business sales in, a secondary problem might be the CRM.  Delivering value to customers is always a primary problem but your telephony system that creaking but not broken is a secondary problems.


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