Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Friday, February 13, 2009

Turning Problems into Opportunity

Turning Problems into Opportunity
Problem-free organisations are a rarity in this competitive world. Nevertheless, many organisations have been economically successful. What distinguishes such organisations and helps them stay ahead of competition is not a mystery. However, it definitely requires an understanding of the organisational mechanism.

The differentiator

Winning organisations too look for quicker and easier means to solve problems. However, what differentiates them from the unsuccessful ones is their ability to search for workable solutions. They delve deeper to find out the root cause of problems. Such detective work, which brings to light the fundamentals beneath the surface problems, is called deep organisational diagnosis. This diagnosis demands committing of time and effort. Winners are ready to give all the commitment required to convert their problems into opportunities.

Case I

A company had been experiencing poor sales performance and the reason attributed was waning motivation. The top management assumed that redesigning the incentive compensation plan could reenergise the sales staff. The company followed a “do-it-now” philosophy, and the plan was developed and implemented almost immediately.

Sales figures escalated but the underlying problems nevertheless remained undetected. Probe revealed that there was little meaningful communication among the various departments and this led to absence of genuine teamwork. The top management also identified cultural barriers to the flow of communication. Distrust aggravated the situation.

Deep organisational diagnosis had helped the company open doors for creative thinking and identifying opportunities. This gave the company a competitive edge.

Case II

The Chief Executive of a company was disillusioned with the performance of her department heads. Surprisingly, there was little effort from the heads themselves to resolve their problems. Interdepartmental rivalry loomed large and the department heads were highly disorganised. The CEO felt an urgent need for a management training programme. Hence, a training expert was appointed who designed a training schedule taking the CEO’s observations as the basis for diagnosis. The courses focused on problem solving, team building skills, time management and conflict resolution.

However, the situation never improved. Techniques presented through the training sessions were never implemented. The assumption was that the skills imparted didn’t solve managers’ perceived problems. The CEO who initiated the training programmes quit shortly thereafter.Failure to improve organisational performance could be attributed to incorrect initial diagnosis. Training programmes can identify the need for imparting a skill only when the need for such skill arises. They can however not be used as tools to prevent problems.

The new CEO of the company followed the approach of deep organisational diagnosis. She probed deeper into the managers’ unproductive behaviour and reasons for interdepartmental conflict, also the reasons for not identifying problems much in advance. Probe revealed that the managers were themselves never properly managed by their coach, the former CEO. Their ineffective work habits were also ignored to a great extent. They did what they found fit for their organisation.

The new CEO identified two remedial measures for the company. A general management system to review the management practices. The second one being, managers must be managed. They need greater clarity of roles and the CEO expectations had to be matched with their potential. Thus, deep organisational diagnosis helped the company gain better insights into the action plan for success.

Road blocks

Deep organisational diagnosis is essential and many organisations realise its advantage. However, many organisations are invariably unable to get out of the mire of problems. This is because, they do not identify the following barriers to organisational success.

Edginess: This a common symptom exhibited by organisations showing initial enthusiasm to emerge winners. Quick action leads to faster results and individual rewards. Hence, the temptation to hurry up things is pervasive. However, this could be a barrier to identifying deep-rooted problems.

Simplicity: Simplicity is a virtue, but not in deep organisational diagnosis. Diagnosis must follow the uncharted terrain and not a straight-line approach to solving problems.

Panicking: The fear that deep diagnosis will trace the problems towards those in positions of higher organisational power is another hindrance to long-term success of an organisation.

Skill deficiency: Lack of appropriate skills despite the motivation to diagnose the root cause for surface problems could mar organisational success. Skill deficiency is considered to be resulting in organisational problems more than individual problems.

Broader perspective: Root causes are cross-boundary issues that require visualising the organisation as a macro-system functioning beyond a single specialisation.

Hyper competitive pressures: The accelerating pace of innovation and competition requires organisations to be always on the run. Only then can they survive and excel in their area of business.

The irony

All barriers to success along with hyper competitive pressures pose a paradox. The irony is that as the organisational issues are on the rise, the time available to understand those issues is decreasing. Ideally companies should differentiate between surface and underlying problems.

A Ten Step Escape strategy

Caught between the market forces and organisational complexities, organisations look for escape strategies. A ten-step strategy would help companies face organisational challenges.

Understand the irony: Managers must be made aware of the ironical trap they are caught in. The first step in breaking the paradox is to understand the paradox.

Evaluate ROI: Time invested in identifying the root causes, before plunging into an action effort, always pays-off well.

Tap the creative vent: Innovative ideas lead to better performance. The knowledge- and growth-creating potential of deep organisational diagnosis helps organisations follow the path to success.

Apportion time: Managers must be encouraged to apportion time to optimise their organisation’s potential, keeping in mind the importance of problem solving and planning.

Systems approach: Managers must be coached to view organisations in systems perspectives. They need to emphasise on a complex network of processes and relationships.

Development programmes: Managers recognise the need for well trained management and therefore place greater emphasis on management development programmes. Development programmes must include lectures on differences among symptoms, superficial causes and root causes.

Use diagnostic tools: Analytical methods to solve problems and identify the core issues must be used and effective action taken.

Creative bent: Kindling the creative fire in the managers can challenge them to tackle the diagnostic process.

Driving forces: Employees taking the initiative to deal with underlying issues need to be rewarded. Also they must be provided sufficient time to unravel tricky issues.

Embed the process: The value-generating power of deep organisational diagnosis is efficiently used when managements incorporate it into the fundamental thinking processes. This internalisation leads to continuous organisational improvements and transformation.


Deep organisational diagnosis is not a simple affair. Time and determination are the prime requisites to change the deep-seated habits of puzzling symptoms of underlying problems. However, investing in these valuables is worthwhile and nets enormous profits.
Ref: TheManageMentor.

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