Problem-Analysis is Vital for Individuals and Groups

If you are familiar with my book and cornerstone presentation, “A Strategy For Winning,” you may recall that Principle Three is “Be Creative.” Then, of the six steps under “Be Creative,” the first step is “Admit and Define the Problem.” This appears to be a very simple, common sense step, but often ignored. It is ignored, first of all, because we don’t always like to admit that something needs to be changed. Secondly, it is ignored because we are a solution-oriented society and often want the answer to something before we even know what the question is.
This rush for answers happens in businesses, families, schools, churches and other areas of society. For example, let’s say it becomes very evident to a business manager that his people are performing poorly, making numerous mistakes, working slowly, and the morale is definitely low. He may contact a trainer and say, “Get in here and do something with these people!” The trainer may come in and apply the latest techniques and tools. The situation could grow worse as the people rebel. It could become better for a while, and then eventually fall back to where it was before the training began. Or, some other response may occur temporarily. More than likely, however, there will be no long-term fix unless an up-front analysis is performed to discover what is causing the problems to begin with.
The board of directors of an organization contacted me about presenting a program to their management and employees that would increase teamwork, raise morale and improve performance. I met with the directors and we discussed the situation in depth. I suggested I be engaged to devise and conduct an internal and external problem-analysis. After I explained the procedure and let them proof the customized survey, the board was fully behind me. I made a preliminary presentation to employees, gave them some specific survey forms to complete and discussed the forms with them. The forms were accompanied with pre-stamped envelopes addressed to me. I promised the employees I would be the only person to see the responses. A similar procedure was performed with directors and management.
Meanwhile, I conducted another survey with individual and commercial customers of the company. The largest degree of contact was through letters with mail-in survey forms. Additional information was gained through phone conversations arranged when some respondents supplied their phone numbers to offer additional comments. Still more information was acquired when some customers agreed to meet with me for discussion.
After the survey aspect was completed, I met with the directors to discuss the results. Together, we proposed several things, including some needed changes in personnel and procedures, along with some initial training. Since then, I have remained close to this organization and conducted various training sessions. But the bottom line is, there has been a definite, positive, long-term change in the organization. This is because at the very beginning, rather than the directors saying, “Get in here and do something with these people,” they joined with me to ask, “What is the problem?”
Let’s face it, though, in businesses, homes, schools, churches and other areas of society, people don’t like to get involved with problem-analysis. It is a lot of work. And, it often presents answers you are not looking for and spotlights needed changes that are not easy to make. Also, the questions have to be asked correctly and the real issues must be probed. Bad questions and skirting real issues wastes everyone’s time. Even though there may be no such thing as a pure, perfect, unbiased problem-analysis, one that is carefully designed and used is extremely valuable. And, one of the first questions it should answer is, “Is the problem with the performer or is the problem with the system?” A commonly accepted observation has been made that claims, “If you put a good performer in a bad system, the system wins every time.” On the other hand, if the system is good and the performer doesn’t respond to proper training, and even brings down other performers, then it appears to be time to replace the performer.

Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or carlmays@carlmays.com. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on www.carlmays.com and www.amazon.com.

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