All Posts in Category: Problem Solving

Insight Precedes Change… the Role of Stats in Success

Championship athletes and teams keep statistics to improve performance and results. In
basketball, statistics include shooting percentage (field goals, 3 point and free throws),
rebounds, steals, assists, and turnovers. In baseball, it is batting averages, earned runs
averages, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, stolen bases, walks, strikeouts,
and fielding average. Similar categories exist in every sport.

Unfortunately, in business, too many people think they are too busy “working” to keep
statistics. When you keep track of the appropriate statistics and monitor them on a
frequent basis, you can work smarter instead of harder and you will have more time for
important tasks.

A manufacturing company had a horrendous absenteeism problem. It was costing them
a lot of money in overtime and temporary services. Mistakes were being made and they
were losing customers. Management tried everything they could think of to correct the
problem, but without success. During a management development process, the problem
surfaced and the facilitator asked some insightful questions that produced some startling

His questions involved who, what, when, where, how, and why. When he got to “When is
it occurring?” the answer was “We don’t know.” And he said, “Let’s find out.” The team
gathered statistics from the previous six months and presented them several different
ways. When they looked at the per day statistics, the insight paid off. They found that
Monday through Thursday attendance was in an acceptable range, but Friday
attendance missed the mark drastically.

When the managers were asked why they thought this was happening, they said it was
probably because they paid people on Thursdays. When asked why they did that, the
classic response was because we’ve always done it that way. When asked what would
happen if they changed payday to Fridays, the response was “We don’t know.” The
facilitator said, “Let’s find out.” They changed payday to Fridays and their absenteeism
problem shrunk to an acceptable size. The benefits were substantial. Without the insight,
the problem would probably still exist today, or worse yet, they would be out of business.

Do you have lingering problems that you have not been able to solve or goals you have
been unable to reach? Take a new look at statistics that are available to you and/or set
up a scorekeeping system to get new statistics. Electronic spreadsheets are a great way
to look at a set of statistics in many different ways so you can gain additional insight. Ask
questions starting with who, what, when, where, how, and why to identify opportunities
for improvement.


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Frequent Feedback Prevents Problems

Without feedback there is no improvement or progress. Most quality programs are based on getting feedback on how current processes work so they can be improved. Without the feedback, there would be no improvement. The same is true with human behavior; without appropriate feedback and positive reinforcement there will be no improvement in performance and results.

Effective coaches understand that giving appropriate feedback is the quickest, cheapest, and most effective method for improving performance and results.

Humans need feedback to validate their existence, enhance their self-esteem, and improve their self-image. One of the greatest forms of punishment is solitary confinement; little or no feedback. Our self-images are developed by feedback we get from experiences and/or other people. A Sunday school teacher told me I was a good reader when I was 11 years old. I believed her and have been an avid reader for the past 50 years, reading 40 plus books a year plus numerous magazines and articles. Did feedback affect my self-image and behavior? Absolutely! All of us can relate examples of how feedback has affected our behavior and performance.

As a coach, you have a unique opportunity to improve performance and shape results through the use of appropriate feedback. All feedback is important to performance improvement. Positive reinforcement is critical. People tend to act to gain a benefit or avoid a loss. People tend to gravitate toward pleasure and reward and avoid punishment and rejection. As a result, human behavior is driven by the principle that what gets rewarded, gets done.

If you want a sales person to make more calls, use positive reinforcement. If you want a sales person to open new accounts, use positive reinforcement. If you want a better safety record, or less waste or rework, or better accuracy, or on-time shipments, use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is accomplished through feedback — from a trusted, supportive coach.

The dilemma with feed back in business is that most people won’t ask for feed back and most business coaches don’ t give enough of the right kind.Most people won’t ask for feedback because they don’t want to appear weak or perceived as“high maintenance” or they think if they have to ask for it, it isn’t as valuable.

Business coaches don’t give enough appropriate feed back for a myriad of reasons, including:

They don’t fully understand the value and importance.
They don’t know how.
They don’t think they have enough time; they are too busy“doing”.
They don’t get enough from their coach.
They have had poor role models in the past.

Since people are reluctant to ask for feedback, it is imperative that coaches make an extra effort to give appropriate feedback using positive reinforcement. Catch people doing things right. Focus on people’s strengths and stop pointing out their weaknesses.Notice and comment on progress. When you see it, say it. When people see you are sincere about recognizing their contribution to the organization, you will be rewarded with improved performance and results, higher morale, better teamwork, and a more positive work environment.

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