I spend a lot of my time in business trying to get people to see the advantage of truly working together. A conversation at the coffee machine the other week, summed up nicely where I think there is room for improvement.

“The coffee machine is not working properly. The screen says the cup is full but when I remove it, it is barely more than a third full.” Said my disgruntled colleague.

“What do you think the problem is?” I asked, knowing him to be an engineer by training.

“It’s definitely a hardware problem, that’s obvious”. He said.

“I am not so sure” I replied “I think it is a software problem. “Which button did you push?”

My colleague pointed to ‘Black Espresso’.

“There you have it I said, the quantity in the cup was correct but the screen is not programmed to display a half empty cup as being ‘full’ or ready to remove.”

Later, I considered the options again. I imagined bringing all the people in the coffee supply chain business into my office, along with a diverse group of people representing different viewpoints.

The software engineers, would tell the hardware engineers to adapt the machine to make a double espresso and have done with it. The hardware engineers would tell the software engineers that they should get their act together to make a more functional display. The ecologically minded would tell the hardware people to adapt the machine to be able to dispense two sizes of cup (and to do away with the plastic cup at the same time).

The sales person for the coffee solution, might seek a compromise by trying to sell an additional, dedicated espresso machine with small cups. The departmental manager would want whichever solution was chosen to dispense the coffee faster because too much time is being wasted queuing for coffee. While procurement would want to see the total cost of the solution fall significantly. The cleaners, on the other hand, would want to make sure that whatever system is chosen, it should make less mess.

Solving problems proficiently, requires a collective set of minds. And although we often have all the knowledge and skills within our organizations, far too often, they are not involved at the right time.

Have a good week, I am off for a coffee