Are you clear on how the people-related aspects of your organization’s problem-solving efforts operate?

Over the last 30 years in my problem-solving experiences, groups have often struggled with the ‘people part’.

For example, safety incidents almost always involve people not knowing or doing what was needed to prevent the situation from happening. In fact, it’s well-known that the majority of accidents are preventable and relate to some sort of behaviors that need to be improved (if not eradicated).

The Performance Improvement Cycle element that we’ve spent the last several years developing into a clear model known as CORE has pulled together the ideas I’ve known since my 20s.

Those who are familiar with continuous improvement will recognize the diagram below. The circled people section in red (sometimes referred to as “man”) is about getting to the root cause of people problems and making sufficient changes to prevent the situation from reoccurring.

Organizations sometimes want to skip this section entirely because they’re tired of blaming people — but actually, the Performance Improvement Cycle solves the problems while removing blame.

When reflecting on safety incidents, leaders should ask themselves the following questions related to the performance cycle:

  1. Have the expectations been clearly identified, communicated, and confirmed?
  2. Have people been effectively trained to know how to do the work safely and complete it without any incidents? And have the supervisors been sufficiently trained to coach people on safety requirements?
  3. Has a reasonable amount of coaching been provided to ensure safety behaviors are dependably in place?
  4. Is there a need for feedback or follow-up with the individuals doing the work and the leaders responsible for overseeing it?
  5. Are there practices in place to recognize the correct behaviors related to the incidents?

Since more often than not the answer to some or all of these is no, organizations continue to have the same incidents over and over again.

Yet the root cause is actually obvious: we are trying to make it simpler to identify leadership behaviors needed to drive success so that people problems become easier to spot and fix.

I’ve often noted that if you look at safety incident investigations and follow-up action plans, there’s an uncanny similarity in what’s wrong and what it takes to fix it.

It’s easy to get stuck. This work is difficult. But when I see how practitioners of the Performance Improvement Cycle readily adopt a much more effective approach, I grow even more committed to doing everything possible so that everybody can realize these same results.

One aspect of my work with teams that I love dearly is the report-out at the end of their action learning projects which, in essence, focuses on applying all the elements of care and accountability.

The report-out signals the end of their initial A3 or problem-solving work related to some type of people topic. Projects have included break times that aren’t being followed, attendance policies that don’t work, onboarding that needs to be upgraded to improve retention and the need for more effective safety practices -just to name a few.

It often brings me close to tears as each of the leaders — some early in their careers and some with many years of experience — share their ah-ha moments and pride in their accomplishments.

The participants reveal the impact of their improved understanding of the fundamentals of heart-based accountability. They are able to diagnose situations and identify root causes of why results are lacking and more importantly identify what to do differently or better.

How does your organization generally approach the people-related aspect of problem-solving and successfully address it to remove it from the equation?

Next week, I’ll be sharing more about the celebration aspect of solving people-related issues.

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