Jim's Blog

6 Simple Questions for Quick and Accurate Performance Analysis

July 2017

It is critical for organizations to precisely diagnose their performance issues to ensure accurate solutions. But a common complaint is that analysis takes too long.

As a result, people often jump immediately to solutions, either to provide the illusion of progress or appease impatient managers. Industry data indicate that this leads to poorly selected solutions and very poor results—oftentimes, less than a 30% success rate for certain solutions like process improvement and training.

So what should leaders do?

Here are 6 simple questions that lead to accurate solutions.

1. What business metric are you trying to solve? This question sets the project’s direction and reduces scope creep.

2. How does the work get done? Understanding the individual and collective actions associated with the issue is essential.

3. Based on available data, what actions are deficient? Searching for data is often where things begin to breakdown and speed begins to become an issue. Data will help pinpoint the most significant opportunities for improvement. It will also make your business case believable.

4. Why are the deficient actions deficient? For example, an action might not be performed fast enough or it just might not be done at all. Here’s a hint: An inappropriate “why” response to this question is anything that relates to a “solution”. That comes later — after you figure out the cause.

5. Under what conditions do the deficiencies occur? This is another one where time and resources can get stretched to the max. There is no need to apply solutions to every work group if the problem only occurs at a particular time and place (e.g., the night shift of the Phoenix distribution center).

6. What are the causes? This is the key to the selection of the optimal solution set. For example, the solution for “job orientation is not aligned with outcomes” will be different than that for “job orientation has not been conducted”. For one, the issue is structural; the other is related to execution.

You can add depth as time permits, but these six questions set the stage for selecting precise, issue appropriate solutions. And, the right solutions will help you accelerate organizational health.


About Jim Hill

Jim is the founder and CEO of Organizational Performance Systems.

Previously, Jim was a Marine Corps officer and an executive with Sun Microsystems. He is a past president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

He holds degrees from The Ohio State University, Webster University, and Averett College, and he received his doctorate in human and organizational performance from the University of Southern California.

His book, Giving Away Power, was published in 2013.

He is the 2016 recipient of ISPI’s Distinguished Service Award.

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