The Means as Ends

Goals are important. They establish where we want to go. However, when our progress is slow, it can become easy to abandon the goal. Often, the reason is because we focus on the goal and not the means for attaining it.

Achieving a long-term goal takes perseverance. It can be hard to maintain the drive over a period of months or years, even when we might be making progress. The goal remains in the distance. We can overcome this by shifting our focus from the goal to the means.

As a simple example, consider someone who wants to lose 30 pounds in 6 months. He may weigh himself daily, hoping to see progress. If he doesn’t lose weight as quickly as he’d like, he may get discouraged and abandon the goal. But what if he focuses on the means?

Let us say that, instead of eating fast food for lunch, he decides to carry his lunch each day in an effort to eat healthier and lose weight. His goal is no longer 6 months away—he now has a daily goal. The means become an ends.

By shifting the focus, he can now see progress each day that he carries his lunch. He knows that if he keeps doing that, he will eventually lose weight. And he finds it much easier to focus on what he can do today rather than focusing on the weight he hopes to attain in 6 months.

The same principle applies to any long-term goal: if we keep doing the right things, we increase our chances of experiencing good results.

We should certainly plan for and think about the long-term. But it is often easier to accomplish long-term goals by focusing on the short-term— the means.

Breaking the Bottlenecks

If you are like most painting contractors, few days pass without some frustration, stress, or problem. These issues are symptoms of a bottleneck—actions or inactions that are restraining or constricting the attainment of your goals.

Bottlenecks are a part of owning a business. The dynamic nature of business guarantees that we will never eliminate every bottleneck. But we can eliminate many bottlenecks and reduce the impact of others.

Unfortunately, we often treat the symptoms rather than the cause of a bottleneck. The pain may go away today, but if the cause is not addressed, it will return again and again in the future. The same cause leads to the same effect.

If we want to end this cycle of frustration and stress, we musadt address the cause. We must break the bottleneck.

Our manual, Breaking the Bottlenecks, provides a systematic process for:

  • Identifying the root cause of a bottleneck
  • Identifying the actions necessary to get desired results
  • Identifying potential negative consequences of proposed changes
  • Implementing the changes necessary to resolve the bottleneck

Breaking the Bottlenecks does more than provide solutions to specific problems. It provides a system for solving any problem, large or small. It provides a new way to look at problems and find creative, long-lasting solutions.

This powerful 32-page manual is available in PDF for only $6.99. Upon ordering, you will receive an email from BEP Enterprises with download information.

Finding the Root Cause

We understand that, all things being equal, the same causes always lead to the same effects. But often we fail to act on this knowledge. We tell ourselves that this time is different. We convince ourselves that a particular problem was an aberration. We rationalize, and we procrastinate. And we fail to address the cause. The extent to which we fail to address the causes is the extent to which the effects will return again and again.

Addressing causes means much more than pointing fingers or casting blame. Certainly, there are times when an employee really messes up. But such situations are more rare than we often believe. And even when employee error occurs, that is seldom the root cause.

The root cause is the most basic or fundamental source of an undesirable effect. It is the action or inaction that starts a chain of events resulting in the symptom of a bottleneck.

Often, when faced with the symptoms of a bottleneck, we look for a quick solution. This is understandable. We want the pain to go away. We want to extinguish the fire. Unfortunately, that is all we do. We make the pain go away, but the cause remains. And the pain will return sooner or later.

If we want to find the root cause, we can’t be content with the first thoughts or explanations that we have. We must dig deeper. We must probe and play detective.

Consider a common experience among painting contractors—running short of paint at the end of a job. If we ask why this happens, a typical answer is that insufficient paint was ordered. This is certainly true, buy why was insufficient paint ordered?

If we stop with our first thought, our inclination will be to simply order more paint. But how much more? And should we do this on every job? If we start ordering extra paint for every job, we could see our material costs explode. And that’s not good either, particularly if we don’t need the paint. We will have simply exchanged one problem for another.

But if we probe deeper, we can find a better solution. Continuing with the above example, let us assume that you find that the amount of paint ordered matches the quantity estimated. But that amount is sometimes insufficient. We now have a clue for further investigation. Does the material shortage occur on certain types of jobs, such as interiors or exteriors, with greater frequency? Is the shortage occurring with a particular product more than others? Questions such as these can help
us identify trends, and trends can lead us to the root cause.

Suppose we find that the vast majority of our shortages occur with exterior trim paint. We now know to look at the spread rates we are using for calculating material needs, as well as the application methods of our painters. If we are calculating 400 square feet per gallon, but are painters are applying the product at the rate of 300 square feet per gallon, we have a discrepancy that needs to be addressed.

By probing deeper and finding the root cause, we are able to find a solution that eliminates or greatly reduces the problem forever. And it does so without creating a new problem in the process.

Using business systems to solve problems

If you are like most painting contractors, you are frequently experience frustrations and/ or undesired results. Employees who do not always perform as you would like, late deliveries, payments that aren’t collected promptly, and a myriad of other problems can torment the owner of a paint contracting business.

Most problems in a paint contracting business result from 1 of 2 causes: a lack of systems and procedures, or the procedure was not properly followed.

Consistent actions lead to consistent results. If we know the results we desire, and the actions that will lead to that result, successful performance is simply a matter of following the proper course of action. In other words, if A causes B, and we want B, then we should do A.

This may seem like an over simplification, but the truth is, actions have consequences. And those consequences are usually predictable. Thus, our business can achieve consistent, desirable results if we consistently take the appropriate actions.

Undesired results are a signal that we have not taken the appropriate actions. When we experience a problem or frustration within our business, we should view it as an opportunity to correct or implement a system.

By developing and implementing systems in our business, we will consistently take the actions that produce the results we desire. Systems provide the guidelines and the standards for those actions.