Stop overanalysing with complex tools; use pen and paper instead. And especially… work in a team.
A few weeks ago, I started a project with a new client. Last week was full of brainstorming, discussions and decision-making. The client is facing a challenging situation. They are experiencing long lead times and quality issues. All this translates into losing business to competitors.
My job was to find the root causes of the problems and suggest an immediate course of action.
I started my analysis with observations and interviews. And I quickly discovered the reasons behind the problems. Lack of components in the final assembly line and demotivated workforce. Significantly the morale of the shopfloor workers was low, and they were reticent to commit to anything. I also observed a massive work overload on the more experienced workers.
When I shared my initial impressions, my client said they see those reasons as two different problems, and we should aim to solve them from different angles. One focused on material flow, and the other more on improving the company culture. They were already considering another consultant specialised in People to help them motivate the workforce.
I differed in opinion. I believed both issues were intertwined. So, I asked for some more time to finish the analysis before they sought help elsewhere. We needed to get to the root cause of all problems.
In my head, I was going through all the toolboxes and methods I knew as a consultant trying to select the right one for the analysis. I wanted to make it easy to understand as I needed to present the finding to the directors, who were also highly demotivated and tired by the current state of the business.
So, I discarded all the sophisticated tools I could think of, got a piece of paper, and drew a vertical line. On the left, I wrote down the problem. Then, I wrote the reasons for that on the other side of the line.
Whilst the lack of components was relatively easy to solve with Kanban, supply-demand planning and improved factory layout, the poor communication was a vast concept and could mean anything to different people.
So, I went further to detail the root causes of both problems. And as a result, I got this:
All root causes are expressed in a way that can be targeted with specific actions, such as SOP definition or R&R RACI chart. There were no vast and ambiguous actions. There was no room for doubt about what to do and if it was the right approach. As we started the implementation, we went further in more ‘technical’ detail. But this simple draft was enough to help my client understand the nature of the problem and how to solve it.
Sometimes keeping things simple and going as specific as possible is a powerful approach to gaining clarity and getting everyone on the same page.
And, before you invest in coaching, team building or feedback sharing to improve your company culture and employees’ morale, set the basics right. Make their work easier, bring transparency, accountability and measurements. That means getting the process drawn, having SOP, clear R&R and metrics. Bring everyone on board, implement changes using teamwork and empower employees to participate.
Only then get to the next level, such as coaching, team training, feedback sessions and multidisciplinary teamwork to improve your company culture and employees’ morale.