Look beyond the obvious.

In the same way that a Band-Aid merely covers up a wound but doesn’t heal it, treating just the symptoms of your company’s performance issues won’t make them go away. Problems occur in every business, regardless of size or industry, that impact the overall level of performance throughout the company.

If you’re finding that you spend time putting out fires on a weekly or even daily basis, coming up with quick fixes, guessing what’s wrong and then moving on until the same issue arises again, it’s time to make a change.

To improve performance, it’s necessary to get to the underlying causes of the problems instead of dealing constantly with issues or reducing efficiency with workarounds that waste time. Unless you get to the root of the issues, they will continue to resurface.

When we work with companies facing chronic performance issues, we assist them in implementing a highly-effective, problem-solving process that addresses the problems head on and eliminates them at the root. It really comes down to the difference between being reactive and proactive.

Here’s a quick overview of the process:

Step 1: Select the problem

The first step is to identify the most critical problem that your company is facing. Using customer feedback and any of your company’s performance data, select the key problem or process that is continuously arising. Are deadlines consistently being missed? Are shipments going out late? Whatever issue occurs over and over again should be addressed.

Start keeping a “frustration log” where you record the issues you’re experiencing. Coupled with customer and team feedback records, you’ll have a powerful tool that can help you identify key problems.

Step 2: Review the current situation

Getting your team together to discuss their frustrations, customer interactions and what processes are interfering with performance is a key step to eliminating the problem at its core. Many times, those on the front lines of an organization can see things that are occurring that management is not exposed to on a daily basis. Brainstorming together can help you determine why problems exist and discover the root cause.

Step 3: Root cause analysis

Once you’ve gathered up enough information to get a clear view of where and when performance issues are occurring, you can then begin the process of analyzing what is causing the problems. Working together, the team delves into the data and comes up with agreed upon root causes. When you get to this step in the problem solving process, it’s important to remember that there may be several factors that are interrelated to cause the issue.

Step 4: Develop action plans

Now that you’ve worked together to analyze all the data and discovered certain root causes, you can then come up with an action plan to eliminate the issues you’ve identified. The plan should be a well-defined approach that is created using all the information gathered thus far and from team recommendations. For example, if there was a communication problem that caused deadlines to be missed, implementing a new assignment alert or assigning projects a week earlier may be an effective part of the action plan.

Step 5: Implement and evaluate

This step in the problem-solving process includes two key aspects:

  1. Implementing your action plan
  1. Ensuring that you have a tracking mechanism in place so you can evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.

It’s important to make sure that each team member is not only following the corrective actions you’ve decided upon, but also that these actions are in fact, working. Being able to monitor your plan is key because without this step, you aren’t able to determine if you correctly diagnosed the root cause of the problem.

Step 6: Keep the gains

When things improve, it’s human nature for people to feel a great sense of relief and relax a bit. While this is expected and solving performance issues is definitely a cause for celebration, it’s critical to keep hold of the progress and keep the new system in place. By implementing a recognition program, keeping a log of performance measurements, and continually training and developing new team members, you’ll be assured that the progress you’ve made doesn’t slip back to when there were issues. In our many years of experience working with companies facing performance issues, those teams that address the issues at the root are the ones that eliminate them permanently.

If you are constantly struggling to fight fires or can’t figure out why your team performance is slipping, The Dorsey Group can help. Our experienced performance consultants can work with you to identify the root cause(s) of your issues and create high-performance work teams that achieve and exceed organizational goals. Contact us today for details.