To Solve a Problem, First Define It

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Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, and Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

 

       This simple concept might be the most important thing I learned while earning an MIT engineering degree. Engineers understand this concept in depth, but policymakers and politicians have a lot of trouble comprehending it. In my lifetime America has burned billions—trillions—of dollars in treasure by leaping to solve problems without first doing a proper job of nailing down exactly what the problem is and then doing a proper job of constructing a solution. The “then” part of the equation is important, too. Government has a decent history with engineering projects. It has a dismal history with social engineering projects. Not paying attention to that history portends, of course, constructing still more dismal history.

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THE DECISION: TO GROW OR NOT TO GROW THE BUSINESS

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Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, and Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

Consider this unusual concept: you don’t have to grow to be self-employed and financially secure.

Peter started several businesses during his life, but once each venture was underway, he eventually reached a point where the business managed him rather than the other way around. While adept at identifying new markets and making sales, when it came to working with other employees, assigning tasks and coordinating their efforts, he never seemed quite able to make the transitions needed to assure business success. After several such failures, Ron hit upon a suitable niche for his talents–as a promoter of trade shows. He has no employees to contend with, each show is of relatively short duration, and he can move on to the next project before he gets bored or runs into complex management challenges.

Peter opted for zero growth–no employees, no hassles, and a good income.

John is CEO of a tool and die shop.  At one time he was committed to growth of his firm but when the firm approached about twenty employees, John had to make a decision. If he continued to grow, he would have to add middle managers. As things stand, he is making an extremely good income and is able to house all his employees in one large unpartitioned quonset-style building. With this physical layout, and an organization of project teams, he can oversee his whole operation alone. His wife does the bookkeeping and he is able to handle all administrative and sales work in one small room in the front of the shop floor. He has made his decision: simplicity. This is not to diminish his staff’s technical accomplishments. Even the Japanese have toured this little plant, which produces some of the most innovative work in his industry.