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No Fun - Thinking About Constraints

When I onboard a new client, I’m excited to learn about the success of their organization, the most important things they do and the goals that tell me where they’re headed. But I also ask about some not-so-fun stuff. Where are they stretched? What negative feedback have they received from employees or clients? Which activities take the most time? What tasks make them roll their eyes and go fill their coffee cup?

As much as we’d like to think “outside the box”, there is a box. When you’re brainstorming ideas, the sky’s the limit. Fill that notebook with everything that comes to mind! But leave a page for the boundaries you have to work within. If you won’t be able to hire employees for the new project, or you have to get something implemented in the next two months, you must look at your ideas through that lens. Identifying constraints is an important part of the problem-solving process. They aren’t things to fix or obstacles to overcome, but rather real-world limitations that it would be foolish to ignore.

Your constraints may include:

· Budget

· Capacity

· Workforce

· Technology

· Space

· Knowledge

· Expertise

· Time

· Support

As you consider your constraints, know that they are not all created equal. You might have a large budget but lack the expertise within your team necessary to implement a project. Or, you might have all the time in the world but be limited by the technology available to you. You should identify the constraints that are most important and need to be given the most weight. This will give you a framework to problem-solve within. (It’s not a box... okay, it’s kind of a box).

I’m most often helping clients do something new – build a process, diversify income, launch a pilot, measure success. The best part of my job is helping people discover what they CAN do, so it’s sometimes tricky to ask them about what could get in their way. But it helps us start from a place that’s more realistic, and always leads to better outcomes.

Starting with your constraints might feel like a bummer, but it’s actually a building block.

Need help getting real about your constraints? Let’s chat about it!

Many innovators have come to know and love the book “Change By Design” – embracing your constraints is just one of the guiding practices explained here. I highly recommend it!


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