CULTIVATING A MULTIFACETED APPROACH TO PROBLEM-SOLVING - In conversation with Yvonne Hyland
When it comes to problem-solving, it is a great strength to be able to see the forest for the trees. The ability to break down complex business problems requires the ability to understand the big picture, having a narrow specialization won’t cut it. When one possesses a growth mindset and seeks to continually learn this enhances the ability to quickly synthesize and distill the situation, and further enables problem-solving.
We are in conversation with Yvonne Hyland. Yvonne has been working as an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, consultant and corporate leader for over 30 years, adopting a multifaceted approach in each of these roles. Having a comprehensive background in entrepreneurship, technology, and manufacturing, Yvonne speaks about how her experience in each area enables her to quickly comprehend the big-picture and define and execute solutions that drive business success and growth.
You are internationally experienced and are at the unique intersection of business, entrepreneurship, technology, and manufacturing. You have had experience with all the aforementioned. Tell us how these various backgrounds add to what you bring to the table and how you approach multifaceted situations.
“I’d be happy to explain how my extensive experience in entrepreneurship, corporate leadership, manufacturing and supply chain consulting and technology leadership has shaped my perspective and helped me to sharpen my skillset when it comes to problem-solving.
“The manufacturing approach I adopt is to be process-oriented and structured. There are a series of steps you have to go through when you manufacture a product. You start with raw materials or components and end with a finished product. Key stages in the production process should be monitored with an emphasis on meeting an agreed level of quality, the later you figure out you have a problem, the more costly it is to fix it. Taking this approach one step further, so thinking about preventative maintenance in the production plant, also translates to good business practice. For example, many problems can be avoided by ensuring employees and staff have the right training and are provided with the right tools to do their jobs effectively. A complex problem is caused because there are a large number of components to the problem, however if you break these down each component, while still being complicated is not complex and thus easier to solve individually.
“As an entrepreneur, the perspective I have adopted is being consciously opportunistic. I’m always looking for an innovative approach and utilizing fast yet calculated risk-taking. Being an entrepreneur, you are constantly creating and building relationships with your employees, clients and partners in the ecosystem. The ability to motivate is a significant component of an entrepreneur’s success. You will need to motivate your potential clients, employees and partners as you persevere through obstacles and hurdles to see your vision through and tackle problems head-on
“From my experience working in the technology field, I have developed a perspective on utilizing technology to benefit the business. It isn’t necessarily about understanding how the technology works but it is essential to understand what it can do. The emphasis is on understanding the technology potential and how it can benefit and enable you and your vision. As a business leader you need to know how technology can solve business problems and circumvent them before they arise in your business context. With the vast amounts of data, predictive analysis tools and AI driven solutions available there is more opportunity today than ever before to be proactive in every business function and across business functions. That being said, data and technology governance becomes ever more important to ensure that the business outcomes are equitable, unbiased and transparent.
“I’m very pragmatic in the way I approach things. It is relatively easy to see the problem. The question then turns into how to best adapt to the situation by understanding the context, seeing the potential solution options, and making the optimum choice. Context is crucial since the solution to the problem will vary depending on each use case and situation’s risk and stakeholders.
Another part of my career was launching and transforming businesses in the heyday of large global enterprise-system driven business transformations, systems from for example from SAP and Oracle. At that time, the key challenge was in hiring qualified consultants quickly. It was as much about fulfilling customer demand as it was about selling services, solutions, or products. To do that sustainably, you had to be focused and do it well. A lot of the risks were centered around not over-promising and under-delivering on projects. During that phase of my career, it was about speed, but not at the expense of quality. How do you do that? By finding innovative and imaginative ways to onboard, upskill and train people quickly, to create intellectual properties that would accelerate delivery and to use technology to automate where it made sense. Alternatively, during the following economic downturn, it was necessary to make significant pivots to focus on cost optimization, demand generation and measured profitable growth. To focus on selling and sales productivity rather than demand fulfillment and to continue to deliver great project outcomes to drive expansion opportunities.
“In another context, when I was employed in a large corporation, one of the products my team and I launched was essentially a package of productized services and data. The challenge I encountered was that the corporate culture impeded our speed in bringing the product to market. We could have sold and delivered much more and more quickly, but the organization was too big with many corporate processes which inhibited the growth potential. One of the main challenges in intrapreneurship to address is getting the larger corporation to be as quick as the new venture. Either organizing itself to be efficient and speedy in its operations, or more practically to carve out the new product group as a separate business with its own set of processes and metrics, to utilize a type of “skunk works plus some corporate foundational support” approach.
“From my consulting experience , one of the big business transformation projects included helping a company simplify their products so they could produce them more cost effectively and reduce time delivery time. For example, I was engaged by a large technology company where they had around 4,000 options on one particular product they were selling. In reality though, we discovered that the actual products sold had the same couple of hundred options each time, and they rarely sold the rest. An extensive product rationalization minimized the number of options. The impact was the ability to deliver quicker with greater margins. In this situation the problem was solved by stepping back and simplifying the product to meet actual customer needs.
All of the above experience has equipped me with the ability to understand and break down complex business problems, to step back and to synthesize and distill these to drive effective resolution.
Thank you, Yvonne, for your insightful outlook.