How to Prevent Ongoing Performance Issues

Our Guest Blogger this week is Jan van Veen. He helps technology and manufacturing companies increase momentum for a continuous and quicker adaption to change. Adaptability is a key success factor for sustainable success in an increasingly complex world with rapid changes.  Download his research report “Adapt or Die – How to increase momentum for sustainable success”

Is your company experiencing continuous performance issues? Are your co-workers fixing these problems, adequately and rapidly? Many manufacturing companies often suffer with ongoing performance issues.  Their most common intervention is to do more of the same, in the hope that this will do the trick. In a complex world that is rapidly evolving, it is essential to continuously adapt and drive performance. But is this easier said than done?

Take a regional leadership team for example, that once struggled with reaching their expected growth. As the pressure for them increased, their main intervention was to create a list of potential sales opportunities within their respective countries; in order to meet their objectives, they would only have needed to gain a small portion of these leads. Unsurprisingly however, this  didn’t work out.

Why get Stuck?

As opposed to just a ‘quick-fix’, many performance issues require a more thought-out intervention. This should begin with a thorough root cause analysis, involving different stakeholders bringing in their individual perspectives. Several teams or departments will often need to collaborate, to implement the adequate solution.

In practice, this appears to be difficult for individuals and teams whilst they are in the so-called ‘defensive survival mode’ or in the fixed mindset (as opposed to Carol Dweck’s famous ‘Growth Mindset’). The common “planning & control” management approach is what pushes co-workers into this defensive survival mode. They focus on short-term targets and punish set-backs. They fail to give themselves time to sit back, discover the root cause, and seek alternatives.

Consequently, people in the defensive survival mode will focus on their survival by reducing risk, justifying issues, identifying external circumstances, blaming others for causing problems, and so on. This impacts performance and creates performance issues throughout the company.

The Alternative

Let’s go back to the leadership team from our last example. How different would it have been if they had taken the time to find out why their business was failing to grow? What if they had involved other stakeholders and experts, or interviewed a couple of (potential) clients? The team could have discovered that their company did not have the right brand or proposition for this specific region. They could have solved the performance issue from first principle, at the root cause. This would have resulted in quicker, and more sustainable solutions.

The Solution for ongoing performance issues

To resolve the matter, employees at every level should be confident and eager to adapt, collaborate, try, rethink, question, and most importantly: act! With modern “sense & respond” management practices you can increase the momentum to continuously adapt and drive change. There are a few practical things you could do, to increase momentum in your team:

  • Let them take the time to analyze the root causes.
  • Schedule meetings with team members to discuss these root causes.
  • Engage in strategic dialogue across all levels, to discuss and adjust priorities.
  • When objectives are not met, initiate a forward-looking approach; with a constructive review and discussion, that will lunge your team forward.
  • Introduce shared objectives as a basis for the review, as well as rewards for your team members; this will get them all in the ‘same boat’, and drive collaboration.

Hold them individually accountable, by agreeing on separate objectives that can all contribute towards the overall goal.

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