When you have a cold, it is easy to diagnose the problem from the symptoms you suffer. You cough, your head is stuffy and you have no energy. In business, there may be clues that a problem exists. However, diagnoses may not be as evident as what happens when we contract the common cold. The good news is that information abounds on solving problems. There are even problem solving models that act as a guide if one doesn’t know where to begin on solving a problem. So let’s look at some steps that can help solve business problems.
To begin, someone in the organization has to have a clue that a problem exits. Of course, more than likely the symptoms show up first, for example, poor sales, a lack of productivity, staffing problems and maybe even chaos. However, seeing the symptoms doesn’t always guarantee the diagnosis. Diagnosing business problems takes a few steps.
- Recognition that a problem exists is first. Leaders who put their heads in the sand and ignore problems are part of the problem and of course, this causes the problem to fester. Business failure can follow. Therefore, this is an important step.
- Begin gathering information and data.
- Employee Surveys. Gathering information from employees using confidential surveys can provide information that leaders may not obtain from any other means.
- Customer Surveys. Customer surveys allow your customer a voice expressing their needs and wants and why they want or need your product or service. This information allows you to meet those needs above that of your competition.
- Vendor Surveys: Ditto on 3 and 4.
- Competition. Survey the marketplace and learn what your competition is or isn't doing. If you don't know what your competition is doing, you will never be able to prevent them from luring your customers away.
- Communicate. Communicating face-to-face with your employees and customers can also provide invaluable information about the problem at hand. Hold town hall meetings with employees, with customers and meetings with a mix of customers and employees. These types of meetings can bring forth dialog, demonstrations and dimensions of a problem that could never be obtained from a survey.
- Listen: If you are going to ask for input, you had better be prepared to listen and not always interject your own point of view or solution.
- Process. Process and compile the feedback from surveys and meetings into comprehensive and understandable data with text, charts and graphs. Gathering it and putting it on a shelf, doesn't do anyone any good.
- Join Forces. Don’t try to diagnose or solve problems alone. Allow input from a task force of your employees, customers, vendors and industry experts. This is where identification of specific actions will begin to form and take shape.
- Change. Change the process and gather more data if needed and definitely make the necessary changes to eliminate and prevent the problem.
When making necessary changes identify those who have the best skills to direct the changes, get everyone on board and drive the changes through the DNA of your organization. Just as with curing a cold, there is no magic bullet, the same applies to business problems. However, following a plan based on solid practices and principles can alleviate symptoms and eventually clear up all that congestion.
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