Diagnosis is the key!
And why? Because if you get the diagnosis wrong, everything else goes wrong. When a doctor misdiagnoses, the patient usually dies. Ditto for organizations.
A good diagnosis is way beyond an X-ray, it has to be like an MRI or a CAT Scan. So what are the key tips to ensuring this:
- Don’t just accept the first thing you hear – validate it by speaking to more people
- Ensure you cover a broad cross-section of individuals, across teams, levels, and divisions/locations
- Have a mix of one-on-one dialogs as well as Focus Groups
- If you can sense people are uncomfortable with voicing opinion, that itself is a diagnosis! And if this is the case, use some other more confidential method of gathering information
- Ensure you don’t allow your own preconceived notions to affect your diagnosis – we’re all human, and prone to forming quick judgments, be self-aware enough that you avoid this
- Ensure you don’t get swayed by the opinion of power centers. Most often it is the power centers themselves who’re the root of the issue
- It is a good idea to sometimes include vendors/partners/customers as part of a diagnosis
Ensure you validate the diagnosis when done, with the key leadership team.
How to diagnose:
- One on one discussions
- Focus Group Discussions
- Research – read survey reports, market trends, share price index of the organization, P&L trends, market-share (for example, if you did this for Nokia, you would realize that they don’t have the capability to respond quickly to a changing marketplace. The next level of understanding would be that the leadership team is unable to create this capability)
- Use non-verbal techniques. Ask people to enact skits or draw posters that depict what’s working and what’s not.
- Use all your senses. What does your gut tell you? What do you see – cleanliness and order or disorder? Are people and meetings mostly on time or not?
Personally I find Appreciative Inquiry to be one of the best ways to have a diagnosis conversation. For more understanding of Appreciative Inquiry, follow the link. My AI mentor is Sushma Sharma, who is probably the best practitioner in India.
All the above ingredients will add up to a complete diagnosis, and enable you to come up with a more complete solution.
Here’s an example from one of my early engagements. This was for an American company that had recently setup an off-shore center in India. They were facing a lack of effective response from the Indians. I was told to put together a program for ensuring Indians understood American culture and language more effectively.
I decided to diagnose further. I invested time in speaking to the Indian teams, then the American teams, leaders in both India and the US. And I finally realized that since we were replacing Americans with Indians, head for head. The Americans were against the India operation.
No one had told the American teams why the organization needed an India center viz. our primary customer had indicated that if we didn’t cut cost with an India option, they would take their business elsewhere.
To aggravate these issues, Lou Dobbs was putting up his list of American companies that outsource, on CNN primetime daily. John Kerry was using outsourcing as his primary plank for the US election.
On the India side, the Indians were not keeping to time, were missing meetings. Were being insensitive to what the Americans were going through.
This more complete diagnosis helped me realize that this was not a language or culture issue. It helped me realize that it wasn’t just the Indians who needed to be worked on, but that we needed a more global more inclusive solution.
It also helped me identify what the key impact measures of this intervention could be.
What have some of your diagnosis experiences been like?