My friend’s son is working as a summer intern at a multi-billion-dollar company that sells software and services. This company, like many others, is still struggling with striking the right balance between having its employees work 100% from home or work 100% from the office. Therefore, much of his internship has seen him sit in his bedroom, while smiling into his computer camera during Zoom meetings (sound familiar?).

Fortunately, there have been several occasions when he has been required to work from the company's office, located in downtown Chicago. Each time he goes to the office, however, it seems that some sort of obstacle has been put in his way:

  • First day at the office: No one is available to let him into the building. He awkwardly waits for someone to come down to the lobby and escort him to the office
  • One hour after arriving: He is informed that since he is an intern, he will not be issued a badge, and that going forward he will have to arrange for someone to let him into the building
  • Second week: He receives an email from HR informing him that as an hourly employee, he is required to log into the Corporate HR system each morning to document his “starting time”, then at the end of each day to document his “ending time”. Since he logged his time in bulk at the end of his first week, he was informed he will not be paid for the previous week of work
  • Third week: He arrives at work and discovers that his colleagues are all working remotely for the day, so he has to scramble to find anyone who might let him into the office that day.

While stories like these provide great humor at dinner parties, I cannot help but apply my work experiences to this situation. At AlixPartners, we help clients in “When it really matters” situations. We help companies overcome mission-critical challenges. Typically, it is the big problems such as global supply chain issues, managing distressed debt, or dealing with COVID disruptions that receive high visibility. 

However, little things, if ignored, can turn into When it Really Matters moments. Here are a few other examples of seemingly little things that can indicate that larger problems may be looming:

  • Is your Finance, Planning, and Analysis team always in fire drill mode? If so, this might be an indication that all requests of the business carry equal weight and that most of these requests are addressed with manual Excel-based analysis 
  • Do you know if your customers work with you because they have to, or because they want toMany companies are great at measuring customer satisfaction across thousands of individual interactions. However, this means they often fail to consider whether customers actually enjoy doing business with them. As a result, there is a failure to develop the processes and systems required to build a truly loyal customer base. This often leads to larger than anticipated revenue shortfalls
  • Are your teams spending too much time preparing for the next quarterly board or investor meeting? It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of preparing for meetings to discuss how your company performed in the previous quarter. While challenging, more time should be spent identifying and implementing initiatives to create a more robust supply chain, build up cash reserves, or invest in future growth

Every company has limited resources. It is therefore critical that the entire enterprise focus on the work that is required, not just requested. If no one is fixing the little things, it will be that much harder to win in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

Are there areas where your organization is ignoring the knocking door of opportunity?