By John Worne

Not everything can be counted in money, nor should it be – but paradoxically putting a price on a deeply human problem usually helps move things along. Why?

Once something intractable is ‘monetised’ as a “£1m problem”; either in direct spend to fix it or in potential hidden losses and impacts, then people and organisations get creative, people get active and people get decisive.

Until you put a price on it, people usually just ask a COO or a Specialist-Generalist to make it go away. Once you put a price on it you can get people’s focused attention. You have more options too; things that normally wouldn’t be do-able become possible and indeed preferable as “£1million” is the alternative. Finally people get energetic and creative and this dispels gloom and recriminations.

The best way to ‘monetise a problem’ is to capture the situation objetively in a short note and get it round the key senior stakeholders; then it’s clear, you enable others to get thinking and helping and to be aware of and supportive of action. Update this note and keep sending it round regularly and the chances are with in a week you’ll have better options, and within two you’ll have acceptance that something uncomfortable will need to be done  – or you will be on the way to forcing a good solution. 

It also works the other way around – once something becomes a “small £10s of thousands” problem the agonising usually stops.

It works on ‘build’ problems, IT problems, HR problems, risks and operational foul ups. Monetising problems, done well, moves people though anxiety, grief and denial – and into getting something done.

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