Investigating Organizational Problems
Finding the cause of a problem is important. Often, people see a problem in an organization and immediately try to fix it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to solve a problem right away — no one wants to lose productivity, efficiency, or profits. But without getting to the root cause of the problem — the real source — you’re just applying a band aid. The problem will probably come back.
When you start looking for the cause of a problem, look beyond the obvious. A good starting point is to be aware of the common types and sources of problems at various levels in the organization. These generally fall into three categories:
- organizational level,
- departmental level, and
- individual level.
Let’s look at the most high-level category — organizational problems. These are things like unstated or unsupported company goals and values. Sometimes a company lacks structure in its systems, policies, and procedures. Poor communication — in both directions — is a big one. Actually, it’s the biggest one in my experience. And sometimes you just have a plain old dysfunctional company culture that needs to be resolved.
Let’s take the story of Ivan, a senior manager at a well-known clothing manufacturer. The company had been in business for decades. Sales had been falling but it took a while before the higher ups realized quick fixes weren’t working. Ivan found out that the marketing lead was getting mixed messages about which lines of clothing management wanted his team to promote. So he assumed the problem was organizational — a lack of communication.
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