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Working smartest means asking the right questions.

I can't emphasize enough that any telecomm manager who wants to be a respected member of the management team must not just solve problems, he or she must solve the right problems.

But what are the right problems? The ones which produce a competitive advantage for your company.

The right problems won't neatly present themselves to you all wrapped up in a bow. To the contrary, it will take some effort on your part to identify the right problems.

But remember, you don't have to do all the work by yourself. Take the Working Smartest approach. Apply the principles of Bootstrapping, Partnering, Employee Liberation, and Value-Added Thinking--all of which I have written about in previous columns.

A few years ago, Larry McCullough was the telecomm project manager for Piedmont Airlines (now USAir).

Before making changes or proposing new systems for Piedmont, Larry spent a lot of time meeting as many key people as possible. He made appointments with top managers and introduced himself to the head of every major department. He asked dozens of questions of Piedmont's primary decision makers.

More importantly, he listened to their answers.

By the time Larry finished his series of meetings, he know how the different departments worked and how each contributed to the company. He was ready to tackle the right problems.

Senior managers look for proposals that support the company's overall business objectives. No company operates in a vacuum. In order to solve the right problems, you'll need to orient your thoughts not only to internal forces which may shape your company's future, but also to the external forces.

In his excellent book, Competing in Time, Peter G. W. Keen has developed some thought-provoking questions to help you explore the competitive world both inside and beyond your individual company. Here are some of the issues he suggests you consider as you search for the right problems:

What is happening in your company's

industry?

* What are the leaders doing and why?

* Who are the leaders likely to be in three to five years, and what will they be doing then?

* Where are the emerging sources of innovation and competitive advantage?

* What does all this mean for the basic direction and priorities of your company's business?

What makes your company special?

* What is its core business?

* How can your company maintain differentiation?

* Why are customers loyal?

* How do we want our customers and our competition to perceive us?

Who is the competition?

* Today?

* In five years?

* What will cause the change?

* What pressures/opportunities does this create for your company?

How can the company be better?

* How can coordination and responsiveness be improved?

* How can information delays be eliminated?

* How can decisions be made faster?

Answers to such far-ranging queries won't leap out at you from the pages of the annual report or the long-range corporate plan. Like Larry McCullough, you'll have to spend time getting input from many sources--other department heads, customers, senior management, and, of course, liberated employees with whom you'll be working with on this research.

Asking the right questions leads to discovering the right problems, problems that affect the company's bottom line and competitive advantage.

Viewing your department in the context of these broader issues will lead you to discover value, get results, and build credibility for you and your department.

Next month: The Credible Telecomm Manager.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:entrepreneurial telecommunications
Author:Jewett, Jim
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:556
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