Why Self-Diagnosis of the Problem Never Finds the Solution
We have all done it. When we are feeling unwell or something hurts, it is tempting to jump online to look up the symptoms. And what inevitably happens? Whether or not you self-identify as a hypochondriac, you jump to the worst possible conclusion, and almost always get it wrong.
Apart from the momentary panic, what is really the harm in doing this? Well, when it comes to our health this is most often a first port of call, usually followed by a consultation with the experts. A third party, separate pair of eyes can help get to the bottom of the symptoms and hopefully identify the cause of the pain and suggest some remedies and treatments. However, when we think about self-diagnosis in a business context, that is not always the next logical step. So, why do we go to professionals to diagnose illnesses, but when it comes to our businesses, we think we can do it ourselves?
As the patient we are too close to the pain to be objective. It can be difficult to separate the aches and pains from what might be driving the symptoms. Self-diagnosis in business is difficult for the same reasons; it can be difficult distance ourselves from the day-to-day running of an organisation and gain a clear picture of problems and challenges. Often, we are too emotionally involved to be able to constructively identify issues and understand how they might be resolved, and this is particularly common for internal teams who may overlook problems that could have critical impact to an organisation now, or in the future. So, what might be the inherent risks for a business in relying on their employees to spot pain points and drive innovation internally?
Firstly, there is the obvious reluctance to look too hard and uncover potential problems. Often processes can be dismissed as ‘fine’, although on closer inspection they might be having a wider impact on team efficiency or adding workloads to other business areas. Added to this is the fear factor: fear of the unknown. It can be scary to go to the doctor with a problem, with no idea of the cause or the solution options, and it is common to ignore the pain, at least initially. This can be counterintuitive, and cause more worry rather than less, and so getting the bottom of an issue can help relieve that burden: the relief of identifying the riot cause of the problem can be part of the cure.
Second, and for many the most important threat to an organisation is the risk of misdiagnosis. When you are too close to the pain it can be easy to focus on that instead of taking a step back and taking a more pragmatic approach. For example, taking paracetamol for your headache might easily mean you miss that the headache is actually linked to a different, or even more serious condition. If you misdiagnose then inevitably the proposed course of treatment will be ineffective in the medium and longer term, and the original challenges go untreated, and grow to be potentially more harmful.
And thirdly, there is the cost of failure. This is arguably the biggest threat for leaders with their eye on the bottom line, and it is something that is not always measured by organisations, or simply dismissed as sunk costs. Even when the problem has been correctly identified and a clear solution mapped out, getting the transformation right is not always a walk in the park. Large scale projects can easily be swept off course, losing sight of the original goals, at a huge cost to organisations. Indeed, a recent report estimates that 79% of digital transformation projects have been recorded as failed, scaled-back, or delayed in the past year, at an associated cost of $5.5million. This could even be a conservative figure, as the total cost of failure is not always fully measured and may not include figures such as the cost of systems that have been implemented, only to find they are not fit for purpose.
In addition, there is the cost of operation to consider. In one study, tech-enabled SMBs were found to grow 26% faster and deliver 21% higher profits than those who are not using these tools. Digital transformation is a major focus for business leaders, and by not acting, an organisation could see themselves significantly outperformed by the competition. In the current post-pandemic landscape, businesses are required to be more resilient than ever. 93% of digital leaders in a recent study said that digital investments made prior to the pandemic allowed them to be more agile in their response.
These are all serious risks for any organisation. So, how do you avoid identifying the symptoms and get to the root of the problem?
Consider an outside view
This does not have to be at a vast expense, but adding some additional resource to your internal team can help bring a fresh pair of eyes to uncover the challenges within the business. Building a team that includes internal experts as well as external third-party members will help leaders build a clear picture that balances internal operations and culture, with a more distanced view.
Work backwards from your goals
Instead of focusing on the problems, leaders should start by thinking about the wider objectives for the business. By starting from the end point, it is easier to work back and see where tweaks should be made. Once you have reviewed current processes in the light of future goals, you can start to see what might be causing roadblocks or problems internally, rather than focusing on the issues themselves.
Get it right first time
One of the biggest causes of budget overruns when it comes to transformation initiatives is not getting it right first time and having to start again from scratch. Many leaders have a good understanding of what is involved in a transformation at a high-level, but the devil really is in the detail. Centring change upon a tried and tested framework is a reliable choice to ensure success and can help ensure all bases are covered.
Catch challenges early
Finally, treat the organisation like you would your health. Consider instigating routine check-ups, to review systems and processes, and ensure any issues don’t snowball. Catching problems early means you can make the fix whilst the issue is still manageable.
In short, internal reviews and the process of self-diagnosis can be a good place to start when identifying areas for improvement in an organisation, but without focusing on the root cause, businesses can find themselves distracted by the symptoms, and miss the real issue. This can inevitably lead to missed opportunities for innovation and growth.