Since we first published our initial article on the value of an internal assessment, a couple hundred additional assessments have been completed for clients and some additional lessons and insights have been learned that are important to share.
You can think of an organization of any type as consisting of the following elements, from the biggest picture down:
- A purpose
- A destination or vision
- A strategy to get there
- The people needed to execute
- The systems required to execute
To be successful in achieving the top 4, you have to have the last one, the systems, solidly in place. To paraphrase Dr. Deming: “you will only get what your systems will deliver”. Deming’s view is that the potential of those working in the system are hampered by the limits of that system. He counseled to focus on eliminating duplication, waste, delay, causes of error and slow down, i.e., fix the systems to get the whole process progressing toward your vision et al.
Instead, American management tends to focus on getting the right people in place (corollary is to get rid of the wrong people), or they put their emphasis on developing a sound strategy as their secret sauce. Our experience has shown that a well executed inferior strategy will outperform a superior strategy poorly executed. In other words, although your people and a right strategy are essential to reaching your vision and fulfilling your purpose, without solid systems you are destined to struggle.
Hence, the importance of an internal assessment. Why? A good internal assessment focuses on what isn’t working in your systems. Optimizing the systems so that your people can achieve the highest level of performance in their jobs and on the strategies defined in your strategic plan is essential.
OK, that makes sense, so what’s the problem? The consistent experience across internal assessments we have completed is that management often does not see what is creating friction in their systems. They may identify symptoms, but not root causes. Further, it is often the case that even if the problems are seen, they are not confronted. Two factors play a hand in this:
- Those on the front line typically are not included in the internal assessment. Hence, the users of the systems and those most familiar with the location and sources of friction are not heard regarding the real issues.
- Management has an upper limit to how many problems it can see and face at any given time. Seeing them all would be overwhelming/crippling. Hence, blind spots become a coping mechanism.
What can you do?
As you prepare to tackle strategic planning, make sure the following are part of your process:
- An internal assessment that focuses on the “health and well-being” of your systems
- An internal assessment process that includes feedback from the front-line staff who are working in those systems on a day-to-day basis
- A prioritization process that enables leadership to sort through the many problems to find the vital few. In other words, which problems, when solved will impact other problems for the better as well, giving you a bigger bang for your buck.
Questions? We are interested in getting in conversation with you on how this might look in your organization or to give you some tips on how to do the above successfully in your unique organization. Give us a call or send an email to start the dialogue.