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Problems or Roadblocks

All of us plan.  Some of us do so formally.  We do written plans with long term goals, short term (annual) objectives, action plans that spell out the activities we need to do in order to achieve our objectives and budgets. 
Most plan much more informally.  We plan to grow each year.  We may even establish some methods of supporting that growth.  Then we proceed to do what we feel we need to do in order to support that growth. 
Of course, those agencies that write their plans and establish ROAM (Realistic, Objective, Achievable and Measurable) objectives and action plans are much more likely to achieve their goals more so than those who strive to improve but don’t write their plans.
But whether you have written plans or informal plans, a key to your plan’s success is how you face the inevitable problems or roadblocks that arise in the course of your personal or business lives.
Each time you encounter an issue or reason that a planned course can not be pursued you have options:
1.    Just keep going the way you have been going and chalk up the plan to a failed attempt.  At least you tried, right?
2.    Change your goal each time you find a problem that makes the plan difficult to continue. 
3.    Find a solution to the problem that permits you to continue to pursue the same objectives that you set.
If you were driving to an important event and you found your route blocked by a sign that reads “road construction ahead.  Road Closed in 50 feet” would you:
a)    Turn around and go home?
b)    Turn right or left and go around the closure?
c)    Change your plan to do something else instead of what you had planned?
This example defines the difference between a PROBLEM and a ROADBLOCK.
First, if the event was one that you desired to attend, and the sign read that you have to go around the block to avoid the construction you have only one easy alternative.  This is neither a problem nor a roadblock to your plans since you have a ready alternative that will still get you to your goal.
However, if either you didn’t want to go to the event in the first place because of the lack of true commitment to the event OR the blockage was closure of the only bridge to your route in 100 miles, it is now a problem, but not necessarily a roadblock to your successful venture.  You still have two alternatives.  Go 100 miles out of your way or go home.
A PROBLEM exists when you cannot pursue your planned activity and you have multiple courses of action that you can take to still accomplish your goal.
A ROADBLOCK exists when you cannot pursue your planned activity and you have NO alternatives.
Note that an issue that keeps you from your goal that only has one alternative is neither a problem nor a roadblock.  Your only decision is whether you are committed enough to your objective to pursue it in the alternative fashion.
Our goal in planning is to only permit PROBLEMS, never ROADBLOCKS.
When confronted with an issue that keeps you from achieving your goal, make sure that you (or whoever approaches you with the issue) have at least two alternatives to its solution.  If there is only one potential resolution, why has the issue arisen in the first place?  The only reason that an issue comes to your attention is a) if there is a question about the planned objective’s relevance or commitment, or b) if you must make a decision regarding one of the potential solutions.
Be aware that if you make plans and then involve your staff without their involvement in the creation of the plan, you will encounter tacit approval of your plans, at best.  They work for you.  Whether or not they believe in your goals or your plans they will most likely support you as long as it doesn’t cause them any problems.  However, unless they have a stake in the success of the goal, issues that will naturally arise could become either PROBLEMS or ROADBLOCKS.
Issues will arise in any plan.  Count on it!  But if you make clear to your employees that they simply need to inform you of any change of course if it is the ONLY alternative toward accomplishing a goal, it will speed your progress.  Never object to your staff bringing you PROBLEMS as long as they bring you at least two alternatives to the problem’s solution.  A part of your job as the owner/manager is to teach the staff how to identify solutions and how to select the best alternative.  When they bring you a PROBLEM and two alternatives, ask them which they would choose and why and then help them evaluate whether the decision was correct. 
When others bring you ROADBLOCKS, recognize that they either haven’t put sufficient time into identifying solutions or they want to stop the goal from being accomplished.  Help them analyze the issue to see if any alternatives exist.  Don’t do it for them.  If they were given the responsibility to pursue the goal and encounter resistance, they should also be accountable for identifying alternatives. 
If they are trying to stop the goal or activity, find out why.  They may not understand the ramifications of lack of success and want things to continue the way it has been most comfortable for them.  Regardless, if you find the goals necessary for the success of your business, don’t permit roadblocks to stop you.  Convert issues into simple problems with alternatives or eliminate them completely with simple alternatives that will permit you to pursue your original course of action.
Reprinted from The PIPELINE, the national newsletter for agency principals.  The PIPELINE is published by Agency Consulting Group, Inc., a leading consulting firm for independent agents in the U.S. for over 30 years.  Call 800-779-2430, E-mail, or visit for information about the content of this article or PIPELINE subscription information.
Last Updated:  June 19, 2013
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