Is Your Business Ill? Treat the Illness, Not the Symptoms.

Sam has a problem; his customer service staff has dwindled from 3 to 1 and even more alarming, his two latest hires lasted two and three months respectively. Sam is at wits end and he has no idea what to do.

The business world is full of Sam’s; the issues may not be identical but the challenge is the same- he has tried everything he knows to do but the problem remains. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s a good time to go back to square one. There is nothing wrong with persistence but sometimes that try, try again stuff is just a waste of time, that is unless you have a plan. And that plan is a lot easier than you might think.

The first question you must ask: what is the problem? The easiest way to describe the problem is in terms of the presenting conditions (or to use a health term, symptoms). This part is straight forward; just describe what you see. In this case, there are two symptoms- the customer service area is understaffed and staff retention is floundering. For many folks, the process comes to a screeching halt right here. Others have "been there done that" so using their recipe for success you assume that you too will make everything right. Heck, they wrote the books, how could you possibly go wrong? Well, sometimes this approach works, but when the "one size fits all" approach fails, desperation sets in. Don’t despair, read on…

"247365572473655720120102_k0034_firstaid_0356_final"OK, so you know what’s wrong; the next question is why or said another way, what is the cause of these symptoms? The answers may appear obvious but without a thorough investigation the underlying source (root-cause) of the problem cannot be elucidated. Root-cause analysis has been described in abundance and any of a number of resources will suffice to explain how it is done. Regardless of what guidance you use, keep in mind that each situation is unique. Time invested in identifying the root-cause is time well spent. The temptation to resolve the problem quickly should be resisted. If the root-cause is not identified, recurrences and that sense of being at wits end will return. Not exactly the plan of choice I’d say.

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