Troubleshooting starts with asking a series of good questions, sometimes to yourself (thinking) and sometimes to others to help increase depth of understanding for all involved.
Undesirable Outcomes (Individual)
- Tasks are not getting done
- Processes not being followed
Interrelated Questions to Troubleshoot
Outcome Expectations and Misses
- How frequently has this type of miss occurred with this individual and for the whole team? Sometimes a miss is just a miss. What does the trend of misses look like?
- As compared to what? For example: safety incidents versus hours supervised.
- How much clarity did you have around the outcomes you expected, including the level of quality, productivity, deadline, process, etc? Were they S.M.A.R.T.?
- Was their role description clear and is it still relevant?
- Were the expectations set explicitly in writing or implied verbally or otherwise?
- On a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that they clearly understood what was expected?
- Did you use good control processes such as back-briefing to ensure their clarity?
Capabilities - Including demonstrated skills and raw capabilities that are undeveloped
- Did they have the know-how to do this task?
- How do you know they had the know-how?
- Did they tell you they knew how?
- Did they have some sort of certification, either external or internal that they are capable?
- Have they demonstrated capability before in doing this type of task?
- Did they have everything they needed, including tools, materials, work area, etc.
- If it is a capability gap, can it reasonably be closed with training and practice? Be intellectually honest with yourself and them if you don't believe the gap can be closed with training and practice. Not all performance problems can be fixed with accountability and training.
Capacity - Don't mistake a capability or choice problem for a capacity problem.
- Did they have the capacity to get this task done, considering everything else currently on their plate? This is especially difficult to assess for roles that serve multiple other people or customers. If it seems they aren't prioritizing well, it could be that they have difficulty saying no to anyone, which is a common occurrence for people in these roles.
- Has anything else changed in their workload?
- Are there other things going on outside of work that are eating up their physical, mental, or emotional capacity?
- For the given role and task, are there appropriate controls in place to ensure the proper completion?
- Is there a clear escalation path if there are problems?
Choice - Both conscious and subconscious
- Did they choose to run an experiment to improve on the process and just fail to communicate it? Good experiments will deviate from the standard process and will often fail. Without good communication, an experiment can look like a missed outcome.
- Did they choose to move forward with the task without total clarity on the expectations and process?
- Was it driven out of insecurity on their part, a broader cultural issue stemming from intense management, a combination of the two, or something worse like a "Kill the Messenger" style of management?
- The final question is whether they deliberately chose to not do the task as expected with the follow-up questions being:
Regularly run through this gauntlet of questions and they will soon become second nature.
- Observe your own behaviors and turn these questions on yourself. They are great for self-reflection.
- If someone starts asking you questions like this, make the assumption they are simply trying to troubleshoot. Take it as feedback and not criticism.
- If you are using these questions with someone else, focus on building up and not beating up. The best coaches give very frequent "GPS Feedback" to their team.