How do you know you’re alive? How do you know if you have the flu?

Maybe it’s by checking your pulse, or your breathing, or the simple act of getting out of your chair. You look for vital signs. Are you coughing, got a runny nose, a body full of sore and pain?

You know something is wrong because you understand how your vital signs are supposed to operate. You might then head to a doctor and talk to him or her about how you feel. They will ask you some probing questions, order some tests, eliminate some causes and discover the true underlying problems.

Once the true problem is discovered, a treatment plan will be created as you go through a process of treat, check and replan.

When it comes to your business, you are often faced with roadblocks, hurdles, failures and issues. You probably dive in and work to fix the problem, but is the source of the problem truly being addressed?

Addressing The Roadblocks

How often are you faced with a business problem or new challenge? Most likely, every day.

It might be a resourcing problem, a staffing problem, an IT problem, a product issue or a long-term technology production issue. So often we see a problem, ignore it for as long as possible, until we have no choice but to deal with it with the quickest solution at hand.

The world is full of consultants, providers and products that will give you an instant solution to any of your problems. Many of these solutions may address the short-term problem, but they often don’t address the associated issues that you may have not yet identified.

It’s the proverbial “you know what you know, you know what you don’t know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.”

I saw a statistic recently that the majority of new software solutions implemented by businesses, could be addressed by existing solutions within the

organisation. I often see new initiatives undertaken within organisations fail, due to the lack of commitment of other parts of the business, failure to provide it with the right resources or being overtaken by a bigger “fire” to put out.

So, as you’ve been self-diagnosing, treating and your ailment starts getting worse—and when you end up in hospital with pneumonia—you start thinking to yourself, “I should have gone to a doctor first.”

Take A Step Back

If you or someone in your business is going to invest money, time and energy into a new initiative, it’s worth taking a step back and making sure the initiative addresses the true problem and will deliver the outcomes you want.

In the same way a doctor will ask probing questions, order some tests, eliminate some causes and discover the true underlying problems, before developing a treatment plan—your business can do the same.

If the initiative is the result of a strategic planning process, it is likely to have been as a result of some probing thinking, but in a lot of circumstances the tactical issues haven’t been identified or addressed yet. If it has been the result of a firefighting issue, it’s unlikely to have had any strategic or tactical probing.

Some will conduct a strategic or project review and do it as par for the course. Others see it as a waste of time or preventing the initiative from moving forward.

It’s always worth remembering that the longer a project progresses, the more expensive both failure and changes to the project can become.

Delaying an initiative for a few days, doing a deep dive, preparing an impact assessment, working through the issues and documenting a way forward—can all be undertaken in a very short period of time and at little cost.

Understanding And Communication

The imperative for understanding your vision and the goals for your business and communicating them clearly cannot be understated.

Often when I come into an organisation and first sit with the owner or CEO and ask if they have a strategic plan, they’ll respond in the affirmative. Then I’ll ask to see it and they’ll point to their head and say something to the effect of: “It’s all up here.”

Several years ago, I was brought into a multinational firm and asked to help assist in developing their regional strategy. I approached the executive that prepared their last plan and asked if I could get a copy as a starting point. They opened up their bottom desk drawer and pulled out about 30 copies of the strategy. The executive had decided not to share the plan. The reason? They were afraid it was going to get leaked to competitors.

In playing into their fear of the other companies in their market space, they kept everyone in their company in the dark. How could they pursue a strategy that their employees didn’t know about?

It’s time to consider a deep dive into the most valuable issues within your business that can provide you with the most substantial return-on-investment.


David Nixon is Australia’s Authority on Unleashing Growth Barriers for SMEs and has been helping organisations realise their potential for nearly 20 years. David has the skill and experience both as the owner of his own consulting business and as someone who has been around businesses his entire life to help see the next level of growth.

In his new book, Growing Up! Unleash Your Business Growth, David shares the 10 growth roadblocks that business owners who are plateauing must know to break through and achieve the success they know is possible. David explains each roadblock in easy-to-understand terms, mixing his experience with real-world examples.

For a free copy of Growing Up! Unleash Your Business Growth, visit www.FreeBusinessGrowthBook.com.au/MEL