Modern business faces complex problems; management often calls upon highly-specialized consultants to help them address these difficult problems. If you're ever called to help identify these most pressing issues, one of the easiest and quickest ways to start is to talk about the "Red Phone".
You know which phone I'm talking about -- it's the red phone that sits on it's own special corner of the desk. Lights flash when it rings; when you answer it, the person on the other end isn't in a good mood, he's not pleased, he thinks everything is your problem and he wants you to fix it! (And ... he's right! It is your problem and you do need to fix it!)
What I want to know is -- when this phone rings, 1) Who is it on the other end, and 2) what are they upset about?
This tells you a managers hot spots, his points of pain. These are the frustrating tribulations that vex his day. If you can identify who's on the red phone and what they're calling about, you've identified the most pressing problems a manager deals with.
Of course, there likely isn't a real physical "Red Phone" -- but people know what you mean when you talk about it! Find out about these calls -- and you'll cut through all the clutter to identify the areas you should address. Spend your time and direct your efforts to solve these problems -- or even just ease them some -- and you'll have the greatest chance of success.
Short note about the author
Joey Robichaux rides the weekly consultant road warrior circuit. He speaks at management conferences and maintains dozens of web sites, including one of the oldest and largest free sheet music websites on the internet -- Free Sheet Music at http://www.freesheetmusic.net.