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The television show “Through the keyhole” attracted cult audiences virtually from its start in 1987. The idea was simple. A presenter would conduct a guided tour of a celebrity’s house and a celebrity panel would then have to guess who lived in that property. The viewers were also left in the dark as to the ownership of the property leading to great debates about what clues had been seen and who might live in that home.
One of the show’s catchphrases “the clues are there” passed into everyday speech and in fact the clues were there in the guided tour, albeit sometimes misleading. So the sight of a set of golf clubs might indicate that the home owner was a golf professional, or simply that their owner enjoyed a round of golf in their spare time.
On a few occasions the clues were so obvious that it was easy to guess the celebrity whilst on other occasions viewers were left totally baffled until the evidence was reviewed. In a way, the same can be said for any failing business. Unfortunately, whilst hindsight might be a wonderful thing, it is often too late for the business.
Sometimes the clues are so small it’s easy to miss them
Sometimes the clues are so small that it is easy to miss them. For example, an employee grumbling about their team leader might well be put down to a clash of personalities or “it’s just X being difficult again”. At other times the inability to pay invoices on time or the sight of waste bins overflowing with damaged products are clues which are hard to ignore. And yet, whatever the cause, if ignored the consequences could be equally disastrous for the organisation.
Aside from financial aspects, issues which may signal an underlying problem include:
Address issues quickly to get your business back on track
Being alert for warning signs should mean that the organisation is quickly able to address issues and get the business back on track. However, it can be too easy to be so bound up in the day to day that clues are missed or to try and treat the symptoms rather than the disease. For example a client may complain an order not being up to specification and late in being delivered. The sales department may make a formal complaint against the production department, blaming them on the potential loss of a client. The production department may try to pass on the blame to the design department and the whole issue develops into an interdepartmental row. Calming the situation down does nothing for the underlying problem which is that the sales department are isolated from the rest of the business and are so target driven that they are promising clients a service which cannot be delivered.
Whatever the underlying reason, the quicker a negative trend is spotted and corrected the better for the business in the long run. Keeping employees engaged and the company culture strong means that organisations are far better able to weather any external storms which come their way. Looking for those small clues and tell-tale signs might be a bit of fun on a television programme but when it comes to business they can be the difference between a thriving organisation and failure.