I've often commented that tools don't make the process. I think this issue has only been further compounded as the many options for tools have increased and continue to do so. To this end I feel like we’ve lost track of the mission: accomplishing the mission and supporting all of our customers. (Read=Boss, co-worker, actual customer, tax payer, etc.) We don’t need new tools to innovate business, we need solid business practices and processes.
Let me explain: When considering building a bird house most of us probably know how to accomplish this task: Go to Wal-Mart and buy one. But, for those who adventure into their basement and/or garage to actually build something this example is for you. So step one would be to gather what you need to be successful at building your bird house: 1) Some plans 2)Some materials and 3) Some tools. Ultimately, combining all three of these things you will build a bird house and soon birds will be setting up shop and you can feel accomplished. However, most of us also know that it's how we combine these three items that measures our level of success. 1) Plans need to be for what you actually want to accomplish and simple to understand 2) Materials should last and not create unneeded waste and finally 3) Tools should help you accomplish the task not make it more complicated. (Anyone see where this is going yet?) You then follow the plans, assemble your materials in the right way while using the appropriate tools.
This is simple people:
1) Like building a bird house, you need good plans to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. These are much like our business processes. Lacking solid business processes, you end up building a dog house when all you wanted was a simple place for a blue bird to call home.
2) Materials should be what you need to accomplish the job and should be of good quality. We all want to ensure the work we do lasts and answers the task at hand. If we don’t then we have failed ourselves and our customers by delivering a poor product.
3) And of course tools: Everyone wants the shiny new tool that’s on sale at Home Depot (or Lowes if you like..) but do you need it? Does it help you accomplish your goal or only look pretty, take up space, and cost a lot of money? Does it even do the task you need it to do? Have you ever bought a tool that claimed to do a bunch of things including the ONE thing you need it to do, just to find out it doesn’t even do the task you need all that well let alone the rest of the things it advertised?
So, maybe this is a little hokey..or is it? Often times I feel we are losing sight of our task, our customers, and the end state by the shiny new tool on the shelf that promises to do everything including slice my fresh bread before a meal. Knowing the task and how you are going to accomplish it is most important today along with delivering top quality to your customer whether that customer is your boss, another division, another organization, or what have you. Tools are supposed to help accomplish the tasks and support the process, not BE the process, etc. It’s time we focus on getting things done and producing results by way of using the correct tools for the job. Social media/web2.0/shiny web objects of choice are just that, tools: Some are good for accomplishing the mission, others are just new fancy tools that do too much for their own good.
Focus on the mission, the customers, and the outcomes and allow the appropriate tools fall into place to make the overall experience better. Don’t fall for what every pitchman has for you or what’s on sale at the front of the mega shopping center store this holiday season. Bottom line: Tools, no matter how shiny and awesome they are, should never be the solution, they are only the means to accomplishing the mission.
If you want to read more on related topics to this, click on over to Steve Radick's latest on "Social Business vs Better Business"