From The Editor | April 26, 2018

Balancing Today's Struggles With Tomorrow's Opportunities

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Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Field Leaders

As a field service leader, one of the biggest challenges you may face is finding the right balance of tackling today’s issues effectively while keeping your eye on how to evolve and innovate your business to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities. This balancing act looks different depending on the size of your company and your exact role, but I think it’s a common challenge that any of you could sit down with a beer and commiserate about.

I’ve talked with leaders of larger field service organizations for which this challenge presents itself in the complexities of managing two different teams – one focused on solving today’s problems, and one focused on innovation and what’s next. These larger organizations have the advantage of having more resources, but face greater hurdles in keeping them focused and productive toward a common goal. Making sure these teams are aligned but not overlapped, and both operating optimally can be taxing. These leaders are tasked with being able to effortlessly switch back and forth between one or the other, all while managing other day-to-day duties.

The leaders of smaller organizations don’t have those same resources, so they bear all of that weight alone. For these folks, it seems like what commonly happens is that they get so caught up in the problems of today that the forward-thinking gets pushed aside over and over again. When you’re drowning in daily struggles, it seems impossible to find time to sit down and think about the future.

So what’s the path through this common struggle? It looks different for each group, but the commonality is that as the field service leader, you have to be able to wear both hats.

For leaders in the larger organizations, you want to think about things like:

  • Based on our company’s objectives, how much of my time should be spent on problem solving versus forward thinking?
  • Do I/can I have a dedicated team in place for each of these functions, to spearhead these efforts and bring my ideas to fruition? Even if these dedicated teams are a team of you plus one, it can help in keeping focused in either area.
  • How do I select team members that I feel are well-equipped to work through these objectives?
  • What is the proper level of visibility each of these teams has into what the other is doing?
  • What resources can I connect these teams with to assist them in achieving their objectives?

For leaders of smaller service organizations, these questions look more like:

  • Does my company’s leadership agree that there’s value in carving out time to focus on innovation? If not, start here – because that’s a problem.
  • How can I carve out time in my schedule to focus specifically on forward thinking and innovation?
  • How can I ensure this time is protected and not taken over by urgent concerns? Maybe this time happens off-site.
  • What resources can I connect to that will help me with both more efficiently solving current problems, and more productively shaping innovation for our business? Keep in mind that you are not the only person with your problems, and you’re not the only company thinking about innovation. Rather than recreating the wheel on either front, find peers you can network with and learn from and learn from those that have gone before you so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel.

Wherever you sit with this conundrum, know that you are not alone. I’ve had so many conversations with field service executives in all different industries and size of companies that are frustrated by this same thing, who feel like there’s just never enough of them to go around or get to everything they need to. Like any other balancing act, there’s never going to be a perfect equilibrium. As long as you’re keeping in mind the need to apply effort on both sides, you will sort out the right mix.