How much diagnostic is really required before getting into solution design? Project teams are always under pressure to minimize the time spent in the Diagnostic phase of improvement projects. The team needs time to determine the health of the organization (its current state), to identify key opportunities for improvement and to develop relationships essential to the success of the project. But how much time should that take?
The underlying feeling always seems to be: why spend all this time (money) to learn my business and eventually tell me things I already know? You know the story: use my watch to tell me what time it is… Is there a quick way to get at an organization’s current state?
Rapid Diagnostic is an interesting approach to blitz the current state (“as is”) phase. Every organization (or department) likes to think they are different, yet the list of vital signs is short, and mostly common to all. The key variables by which to describe the functioning (and the health) of organizations are pretty much identical, with a number of industry variations. Therefore Rapid Diagnostic activities start by assessing standard aspects of an organization, quickly. The challenge often consists in getting at the information: measurement systems are not in place or the information available is not reliable. That is a tell-tale sign in itself.
In practical terms, organizations can perform a self-exam by answering the following questions – this is only an abridged list for demonstration purposes:
- How well do you know your clients, their needs and their buying habits?
- How well do you know your employees, their needs and how they feel about their work, their supervisors, their co-workers and their company?
- What standards exist for doing work, and are visibly applied consistently? How much of the organization’s work is covered by these standards?
- What happens when a process breaks down and a work product requires rework, in part or in its entirety? How often does that happen?
- What performance measures get tracked, communicated, and clearly drive the organization’s focus?
- What is the agenda for regular management meetings and what decisions get made during these meetings?
- What gets communicated and how often? Ask around: what is people’s overall level of situational awareness (what’s going on) across the organization?
- How much accountability for results is visible at the various levels of the organization?
- How competent is everyone and how do they remain proficient?
Your answers to these questions should help you identify where you need to focus your improvement efforts, and should save you a lot of time if you are considering making some changes to key business processes, to a business unit, to a department or to your entire organization. Realistically, how many surprises would you expect an outsider to reveal after they have a chance to diagnose your organization? The value from an outside expert is to help frame the findings in an actionable format and compel your team to act.
In our experience, much of what ails your organization is already known. Chances are your people have been talking about it for a long time – maybe they haven’t shared it with you, or maybe you are not hearing them. The reason you are in this predicament is much more likely because what you have done about it so far has been ineffective, or worse yet, you haven’t done anything. The key is to get to the solution design without delay, and start implementing it also without delay. Change takes a long time because we let it. There is no better time to start dealing with issues than right now! What are you waiting for?