Stymied By Timing
I recently fired our dog groomer. It really had nothing to do with their quality. As a matter of fact, Zorro looked excellent every time he came out. Their prices had stayed constant, so we continued to get the value for our money. The problem was time... or lack thereof. They were such a good dog groomer demand for their services grew to the point where appointments needed to be made four months in advance. They were unwilling to add groomers or expand, so scheduling became the critical issue for deciding to use one of the big pet store chains in town.
On a related note, I was reading the blog of one of my former students. She was venting about a visit from a neighbor which could not have been more poorly timed (at least from her perspective). Before I give you the link to go read this post, there's one thing you need to know about Beth, which makes her biting wit all the funnier: Beth is one of the most professional, organized, put-together, poised, articulate, pleasant, and personable people I've ever met. So her momentary rant about being perceived as the "white trash neighbors" is all the more hilarious, given what you now know about the woman behind the blog.
What do these stories have in common? Simple. Bad timing. In your work systems, inputs may be banging at the door to be processed. If you're not ready for them, those inputs may leave (soured customer relationships) or they may throw a wrench into your system anyway (neighborly visitor's perceptions). Either way, you need to work at getting your inputs into your system when your system is ready for them (controllable inputs) or have your system ready for the inputs on demand (visiting neighbors). Tom Vander Well recently posted some great thoughts on this very topic on the Iowabiz blog. Think about the inputs to your work systems. Are you ready for them? Do you need to be?
Sometimes a simple awareness of what/who your inputs are and how they behave and what motivates them can be a huge step forward to designing processes that help you seize the accomplishment.