How to Spot Key Issues
30 October, 2020
When I joined my current company I was quick to spot some organizational and cultural issues that were repeatedly mentioned during my first one-on-ones with stakeholders from different departments.
Once I started to see patterns in such big topics, I realized my outsider perspective could help us overcome the issues and make a bigger impact. I prioritized it and started a consultancy process to address the problems I discovered.
First off, I interviewed different peers from different departments and roles to collect information and gain a clear overview of the situation from different points of view: managers, CXOs, developers, HR, etc. I listened to them carefully and specifically asked about the main pain points they encountered at work and what they thought were the feasible solutions to address those. I was already looking for volunteers, asking them to help to implement the end solution in case we were able to raise awareness.
I collected all the information, grouping similar topics, categorizing them into themes (communication, organizational structure, personal development, innovation...), and prioritizing based on votes and impact. This brought an ordered shortlist of problems and solutions easily comprehensible for everyone.
I worked with the initial volunteers to draft an action plan, focusing on the biggest pain points and using an agile approach to improve in cycles: implement a solution, measure, learn, and repeat. That way it would be easier to get buy-in for a first pilot and bring results.
Then, I shared my findings with C-level executives to ensure that the main problems identified were uncovered, the consequences of them understood, and the proposal accepted. Fortunately, it was, and we jointly prepared a detailed action plan with concrete measures, timing, and resources. We opened it to volunteers so they could participate according to their background and motivation.
Once the action plan was done, it was communicated to the whole team, starting with managers who took it on to disseminate it further to their teams. The action plan contained precise implementation steps, and the execution was measured through regular surveys.
- Try to spot the elephant in the room. Oftentimes when people are with the company for a longer time, they tend to overlook problems and normalize their existence. On the other hand, a fresh look from the outside can be immensely helpful to identify root problems that are persistent and need to be dealt with.
- Most people are willing to express their pain points, propose solutions, and be actively involved in developing solutions if they are given the opportunity. To encourage their participation, you need to show genuine interest and willingness to solve them.
- Be prepared to analyze big loads of information, process it, synthesize it, and present it in a clear and succinct way. You will dramatically increase the probability of buy-in for your proposals.
- In a large company, with a great number of stakeholders and managers managing other managers, change happens very slowly, and a lot of different factors are affecting proposals. Managing expectations, being patient and clear communication is key to bring to the change.
- Find ambassadors that share your vision and engage them to help change happen.
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