Let’s imagine that someone has asked you to make something better. This might happen because you play the role of a…
- Project Manager
- Process Manager
- Training Professional
- Organization Development Consultant
- Performance Consultant
- Etc., etc.
The something might be a problem, for example:
- Too many errors
- A time-wasting procedure
- A lack of necessary resources
- Slow delivery times
- Not enough sales
Or that something might be an opportunity (nothing is really wrong, but we can make improvements):
- Improving an internal process
- Getting new hires up to speed faster
- Reaching a new sales target
- Developing a new product
- Exploring a new market segment
- Developing bench strength
And let’s say that you want to approach this assignment with some confidence that your actions will actually solve the problem/take advantage of the opportunity.
Here are three things to consider as you work on this assignment:
Evidence about the problem/opportunity. How do we know that we have a problem? What would be different if we took advantage of this opportunity?In other words, what is happening today that gets in the way of our desired future state (or hasn’t been considered yet). How do we know that’s the cause (or the opportunity to harness)?
Evidence supporting our proposed solution. What makes us think this solution/change will move us in the right direction?In other words, do we just have a hunch that this solution will work? Is there respected practice or research that we can point to that suggests this solution will work in our context?
Evidence we’ve succeeded. What will we accept as evidence that our solution has moved things in the right direction?In other words, is there something we can measure today (for example, time, sales, customer or employee satisfaction) and then compare with a similar measurement later—once we’ve employed our solution(s)?
When working with people in complex organizations, there are always many variables to take into consideration. But if we ask ourselves key questions along the way—
- How do I know we are addressing the real issue?
- What makes me think this solution is likely to work?
- How will we know we’ve succeeded?
—then we are likely to avoid applying “the flavor of the month” or other weak or erroneous solutions. If we pay attention to how we know what we think we know as we work on performance improvement projects, then we are more likely to end up with a useful result.