Problem-solving versus … what?

15 09 2013

A minor epiphany, but a light has certainly gone on for me. It relates to the Birkman Life Style Grid (see model below) which we use in order to rapidly aggregate a lot of data in a single synoptic view.

Model of Birkman Life Style Grid

Over the years I have dealt with a number of teams who lie predominantly along the Red-Blue axis, but who are considerably weaker in the Green and Yellow Quadrants. I have tended to categorise these teams as Problem-Solvers, because that tends to be where they shine. Blue-oriented people frame Problems in creative and innovative new ways, and suggest new solutions to old problems; Red-oriented people get on with execution, now. By themselves, Blues have great ideas that never happen, and Reds do brilliantly well that which never should have been done at all. Together, we get great ideas, brilliantly executed. Hence, problem solvers.

So what about the other Axis? Greens and Yellows are potentially just as alien to each other as Blues and Reds. Greens seize opportunities and sell; Yellows set up systems and measure and analyse. They can drive each other mad, but what do you get if you combine them successfully?

Business. Green-Yellow is the Business Axis. Blue-Red is where your products and services come from. Green-Yellow gives you a business and keeps you in business. Haven’t looked at it for several years, but for example, Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited” presents a true  business as a predictable repeatable process for producing money (Green-Yellow) and not a context for creatively doing (Blue Red).

Worth thinking about.


#FLAsia2010 Special 2: Ideas require Imagination; Execution requires Capacity

21 10 2010

Something I learnt very quickly when I first start working in the Franchise and Licensing Field was that ideas – even brilliant ideas – are essentially worth nothing. This was hard to communicate sometimes to inventors and innovators who thought they had the next world changing idea in their heads and who assumed that step two was to start collecting the royalties. But an idea with no execution is essentially dead air.

This doesn’t just affect inventors: any business can come up with a world-beating strategy; not every business can turn their world-beating strategy into a well-beaten world. For Franchisors (and many others), the fundamental issue which determines their ability to execute is not – and this may surprise you – management style or ability to focus, but rather organisational capacity. If you don’t have the right people in place to support the training and support of your growing network, your network will grow so far and then stall. If you don’t recruit the right kind of Franchisees – those who have the capacity to execute your Franchise System relentlessly – then however successful you are in growing your network numerically, your brand will eventually collapse under the weight of failure to deliver.

The answer I often hear to this is something like “Oh, we have a fantastic Franchise Manager, she/he is our secret weapon…” That is great as far as it goes; but if your Franchise Manager left you tomorrow (perhaps someone else has noticed how fantastic they are), would you know how to replace them? In other words, can you write on a sheet of A4 the specification that makes them so successful, so that you could replace them – or multiply them – at need? If not, then you are far from secure.

Ditto your Franchisees, although here you are more likely to have some sort of profile against which you recruit. (If your profile is purely financial, once again I think you are in danger). But if you got lucky the first three times you sold a franchise, that doesn’t mean your luck will hold.

Building organisational capacity should be a highly intentional activity. We know what we are looking for and why, and we know when we have found it. Intentional capacity building allows for intentional execution of strategies and ideas. If you don’t already have access to a toolset that allows you to do this, time to get one.

(And yes: equipping organisations with just such a toolset is precisely what we do. Contact John Ong at or tweet me @jonmkiwi )