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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #85
(July 28, 2020)

Temporary Solutions (Band-aids) Frequently Become Permanent Problems.

As any person responsible for safety in the workplace knows, the only difference between a 'near miss' and a catastrophe is chance. That's why near miss analyses should always focus on causes—the whys—to move beyond the more generalized reasons for the near miss occurrence to discover the underlying or systemic causes.

But does this same postulate apply to general management? Absolutely! Let me use a quick metaphor to make my case ...

In our neighborhood there are a few children who are active outdoors. And the sound of their voices at play is always energizing. On occasion, that sound will change to a yowl—usually preceded by the crash of a bike or some other telltale sound—as one of them adds another 'owie' to his or her list of life's experiences. Usually the outcome is a minor scrape or cut that can be easily remedied with a Band-Aid. (Band-Aid is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson.)

Here's the metaphor ... you use a Band-Aid for a scratch or a minor cut because the wound is not that serious; in a couple of days, you can remove the Band-Aid and all is well. Additionally, no skill (well, at least very little skill) is required to put on a Band-Aid, meaning pretty much anyone can do it. But on occasion, the wound is more critical and needs to be stitched or stapled. In this case, the wound needs the attention of someone who is highly trained and has the skills to do it right; if it's not done right it can cause more pain and suffering down the road. But how many times does someone end up—in the interest of time or not wanting to be inconvenienced—putting on a Band-Aid even though it's a much more serious wound? Now what? It continues bleeding, becomes infected, and causes long-term problems.

[I think you know where I'm heading ...]

Managing today is complex. In any given day you'll deal with all manner of metaphorical cuts, injuries, bruises, and contusions ... all with varying degrees of severity. The art of effective management is knowing when a Band-Aid is suffice or when a more serious intervention is required. When a Band-Aid is used to address a more serious situation (which, in our hurried world, is frequently the case) it is a temporary fix because the real problem hasn't been solved. What's required, instead, is thoughtful consideration about the cause-and-effect to ensure the now-exposed behavior/activity is sufficiently modified or eliminated altogether.

Ironically, any values we purport to honor about continuous learning, continuous improvement, transparency, integrity, and accountability are cheapened in the eyes of our employees when we choose a Band-Aid over doing things right. Let's decide today to make all problems, challenges, roadblocks, and hurdles that are more serious in nature part of our No Band-Aid Zone! After all, running away from a problem only increases the distance from the solution ...

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

It's safe to say that if you don't understand the cause of a problem, it will be impossible to solve it. But even before that, you need to recognize that there's a problem in the first place. Band-Aids have a way of masking this reality. This week (starting today), try out some of these No Band-Aid Zone solutions:

  • Wanting Instant Results: An issue many of us are guilty of is our need (expectation?) for instant results. Most solutions take time, and few things will ever turn out perfectly in the first iteration. So, guard against Band-Aid fixes and quick-solutions that only look good for the short-term. The problem with this approach is the real issue is never actually addressed. A Band-aid is placed on it for short-term success but the issue will continue to fester—one step forward and two steps back.
  • Beware the Recency Effect: In a fast-paced work environment, it's easy to get caught up in the most recent issue. The most recent problem that appears on your radar screen tends to be the most critical because it's fresh. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon that we need to be mindful of because effective management requires that we don't react to every problem as if it must be fixed right away. Effective managers know—mostly by experience—that there are many issues to deal with and just because 'this issue' is happening 'right now' doesn't mean it's the more important issue to re-direct your focus on. This form of Band-Aid solution is known as reactive problem solving. A solution may come, but it's not usually the best solution for the long-term.
  • It's Not the Answer That Informs; It's the Questions: As stated earlier, if you're unable to understand the cause of the problem, it's impossible to solve it. The first step to truly understanding the issue at hand is to get your team involved to learn as much as possible about the problem. This can be accomplished by asking the W5H1 questions (Why, What, Where, Who, When, and How) to gain a better understanding of the problem. Is the issue in the SOP used? Or, is it how someone executed the SOP? Or, is it something else altogether? CORE Bites Issue #78 provided 30 excellent questions that can be used to get the clarity you need.
  • Time for an SOP Tune-Up?: When process problems arise and it's discovered that many employees are not properly following procedures (remember Procedural Drift?), I've found that, generally, the reason they're not is because the procedure doesn't work well or wasn't designed well in the first place. In most cases, employees know what they're supposed to do, but find doing it differently than outlined in the SOP is better, faster, or more efficient. How many SOPs have become SOPs over time to accommodate a shortcoming or have been tweaked to accommodate work-arounds that make it quicker to achieve results? In the same manner that water finds the path of least resistance, humans look for the easiest way to get work done. Perhaps it's time to focus in on those problematic SOPs and give them a tune-up?
  • Training as a Band-Aid: Training is not a panacea to fix problems. Employee training cannot make up for poorly designed work processes (see Time for an SOP Tune-Up? above) or as a replacement for individual performance management. I've witnessed, on too many occasions, managers who are uncomfortable with confronting an employee who, instead of initiating a corrective action plan (like the CCD-4) with the offending employee, require everyone to attend a "training session." All this does is build frustration and resentment.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"There's no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution."

— Betty Williams —