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Effectively Diagnosing the Root Cause of Organizational Performance Issues

Quite often during my consulting work I have come across business leaders who have expressed that they feel a sense of discomfort with the way their organization is operating. There are oft quoted symptoms such as:

  • Lack of team spirit, initiative and ability of challenging the status-quo in employees
  • Departments fighting, working in silos and getting into blame game
  • Managers giving target commitments and ending up giving excuses when probed on results
  • Poor quality of product / services/ dissatisfied customers
  • Attrition of talented performers
  • Reducing customer loyalty, increasing competitive pressures
  • Wastage of invaluable resources due to wrong business decisions
  • Organizational politics impacting work relationships and culture
  • Feeling of frustration, stagnation and anxiety across organizational levels
  • Stagnated business growth in spite of market opportunities
  • Employees seen to be working hard but often with less or no visible results
  • Organizational inability to learn and cope up with market demands… ++++

The restlessness of CEOs and business leaders derives from the fact, that in spite of experiencing one or more of above symptoms they find it impossible to pin point the underlying non-performance issue.

In these situations I strongly recommend them to go for “Organizational Diagnosis”. Diagnosis, a commonly used term in medical science, is also applicable in management field and has almost similar meaning. Organizational Diagnosis is scientific method of analyzing an organization’s present status to determine gaps between current and desired performance and recommending solutions to remove/reduce those to help organization reach desired status of performance. Organizational diagnosis is often followed by implementation of focused organization development / change management initiatives to improve organizational performance.

Hence in simple words, we can state that organizational diagnosis helps you understanding how ready your organization is to effectively execute your strategies or achieve business results and what can be done to improve performance.

Having understood that Organizational Diagnosis is necessary, the next question is who should do this diagnosis? The answer is, it is always strongly recommended that an external senior expert well versed with organizational development domain should implement the organizational diagnosis initiative.

So, why can’t the CEO or business leader/ HR conduct organizational diagnosis? After all it’s their own organization and they would be able to get best of the information to reach the root cause of issues?

The answer lies in this simple but interesting counter question. Why can’t cardiac surgeons operate on their own hearts? After all they know their body well and are also authority on the subject! Why do they call another expert to do that?

The issue is similar to the above example. CEO / business leaders / HR Heads are part and active members of a living organizational system. Their personal involvement in the organization makes it difficult for them to take a dispassionate and critical look at the various aspects that impact organizational performance. Organizational diagnosis initiative probes into some sensitive topics on which people would be reluctant to speak/reveal information especially when the questioning authority has hierarchical power. Having a third party expert with no organizational power, to conduct this sensitive exercise helps members feel safer in sharing information openly.

Secondly Organization Development Consultants / experts bring with them robust organizational diagnosis models and methodologies based on years of extensive research by the thought leaders in change management.

For instance, American analyst Marvin Weisbord developed a six-box model, which critically analyzes the following six components of organizational system, which need to be aligned for effective strategy execution. Mis-alignment in these components severely impacts organization’s ability to achieve its performance goals.

Major issues/problems in one or more components of the six boxes are seen to be reflected in many of the symptoms that are observed by business leaders. Comprehensive analysis of the data gathered during organizational diagnosis helps us identifying exact root cause of non-performance and thereby taking step on implementing change that would remove those reasons.

The Marvin Weisbord Model of Diagnosis revolves around these 6 Questions

  1. Purposes: What ‘businesses’ are we in? How clear are people about the purpose?
  2. Structure: How do we divide work in our teams so that they can deliver their best performance?
  3. Relationships: How do we handle conflict among teams? How do we build productive relations?
  4. Rewards: What are the rewards and recognition mechanisms for work well done?
  5. Leadership: How do leaders drive organizational performance while balancing the 6 factors?
  6. Helpful mechanisms: Do we have sufficient helpful technologies to enable performance?

The Diagnostic Cycle

The purpose of a diagnosis is to analyze the symptoms noticed by organizational members, gather data received through probing questions, organizational processes/documents to deduce the root cause and implement appropriate organization development initiatives.

The organizational diagnosis process is generally divided in the following broad process steps:

  1. Orientation – Communicating the need of initiative and seeking acceptance from stakeholders
  2. Goal setting – Setting specific goals for the organizational diagnosis exercise
  3. Data gathering – Interviewing focus groups, reviewing processes/ documents
  4. Analysis/ Interpretation – Compiling/Collating the data – drawing inferences,
  5. Feedback – Preparing reports on findings along with recommendations
  6. Action Planning – Preparing an action plan with specific initiatives based on recommendations
  7. Implementation – Facilitating and handholding the organization during implementation.
  8. Monitoring/ Measure – Monitoring the definite milestones, measuring success/failures
  9. Evaluation – Looking back and analyzing the learning from initiative and its impact
  10. Enabling for continuity of change – Setting enabling facilitation mechanism to ensure continuity

How Does Organizational Diagnosis Help In Building Better and Stronger Organizations?

Organizations do not automatically succeed. Success is often a result of business leader’s self initiative towards understanding issues that might impede organizational growth and appropriate decision making to strengthen the weaker components of organization. Organization Diagnosis helps business leaders and HR professionals in these aspects. Effective Organizational diagnosis and implementing organizational development initiatives makes your organization “Future Ready”!

Having said this, it is also important to ensure the following aspects before we embark on Organizational Diagnosis Initiative:

  • The decision of organizational diagnosis must as strong business rationale. In the sense the diagnosis needs to be aimed at removing performance issues that impact business results.
  • People involved in the initiative have to be informed in advance of the nature of the intervention and must be re-assured about the confidentiality of their feedback and its constructive use in improving organizational performance.
  • The Initiative must take in its scope the entire organization since all parts of organization are interconnected. An impact on one part creates ripples in other parts as well.
  • The initiative must be driven by top leader and be enthusiastically backed up by other key managers.
  • Top leaders and managers should validate the data/documents/ assumptions at all stages of the initiative, including diagnosis, implementation, and evaluation.
  • The final report should be submitted to the top leader along with executive summary reports to all those involved in the exercise. In no case the people who supported the initiatives be left without feedback on the result/findings of initiative.

To sum it up, Organizational Diagnosis takes an X Ray look at the organization to find out reasons of non performance, helps in implementing initiatives to remove such reasons and sets the organization on a speedy and sustained growth trajectory.

CerveauSys Strategic is an Organization Development and Change Management Firm. Dr. Soniya Yadwadkar, the Founder of this firm and her team of highly qualified and experienced OD Consultants are passionately interested in bringing strategic performance improvement in your organization with consistency and efficiency.

Get in touch with us to discuss performance issues, challenges and hurdles in your strategy execution and we will certainly team up with you to remove those.

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