Often a major challenge in determining if and how to make improvements is to conduct effective fact-finding. In some cases, this could take weeks or even months of painstaking research. Especially under today's market pressure, organizations often take less time than they should to get accurate, reliable information. People often cloud facts with opinions or feelings, which makes it more likely they focus on people issues instead of process issues. There are some steps, however, you can take to ensure successful fact finding.
Get all the facts: "All" is a short word, but it carries a lot of weight. To get all the facts, you need to directly observe. You need to go to an actual place, meet with the actual people, and watch the actual processes. Differentiate facts from opinions. Acknowledge people's opinions, frustrations, and feelings, and then ask how they can substantiate their positions. Review other sources of information like reports, test results, productivity data, etc.
Analyze the facts: Check for accuracy. Does information from different sources seem to be contradictory? Determine if there is information you still need. It's easier to see mistakes in something present than to identify information that is missing. Take a deeper look to determine what the facts mean. Try to identify root causes of problems. Review all the facts with key people inside and outside of the system. Based on the analysis, create a problem statement that clearly identifies the improvement to be made.
Come to a decision: Identify the key people who will need to be responsible, informed, consulted, or otherwise engaged in making changes. These people should probably be involved in gathering and analyzing facts as well. Get a consensus on specific decisions and action steps. People support a world they help create, so consult your team on assigning responsibilities and get your team to agree on when the steps will be completed.
Once a decision is reached, act! Get into action. It's all too common to become overwhelmed by the next crisis or assignment and quickly lose focus on implementing new ideas. Don't lose the momentum. If people have invested time and energy in this initiative, reward them by making it happen quickly.
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