If you are anything like me, I imagine your calendar is something of a mess and finding whitespace on it can be a challenge. Furthermore, as Learning and Development professionals, we often find ourselves struggling to get past the initial hump of where to start our Gaps Analysis initiative. We find ourselves suffering from a classic case of writer's block but instead of authoring content we simply can't find the right place to start looking at addressing organizational performance.
I have found that writing out a treatment on the "as is" situation in an organization and then follow this up with a "to be" treatment helps to gain perspective and put some color around the initiative. The following is an example of this very practice and I have also included a simple way to begin to address tasks, gaps and overall organizational performance.
You manage a small team of say, Sales Support staff, and find that the sales support process could use some tweaking. You grow more and more aware of the simple communication issues that are causing a greater misalignment between the field and the office. Your Support can be heard chattering, during their breaks, about how they would handle Sams (Sales) constant hand holding if only they were in charge. Over the course of a week or even a quarter this chatter becomes more apparent and even worrisome.
In this example your Sales Support staff have identified that the Sales Field (in this case Sam specifically) is/are regularly misquoting, misconfigured, or generally not performing the paper pushing responsibilities required of them before submitting a deal opportunity to the Sales Support Team. The Sales Support are repeatedly looking for loopholes, workarounds or pushing back on the Field Sales in order to get the deal done. This causes stress for everyone and worse yet slows the sales cycle to a crawl, impacting the bottom line.
As a close friend once put it... "Oh, no, no, no!"
"Do remember that your inside sales, support, customer success, business analysts, etc. are vital to accessing mission critical, experiential information about what works and what doesn't within an organization."
What do you do?
Well, certainly the first thing one a consultant might suggest is to ask for money, gobs of it, and maybe hire another FTE or roll out a business case for technology that would automate some leg of the process in the department.
"But have you identified the nature of the problem? Have you had a chance to really listen to the support reps and measure how this problem impacts their business and ultimately the organization as a whole?"
...Well? Have you?
You don't need to be a 6 Sigma Black-belt to have identified what may be a growing problem. In fact, I will propose how you can use a simple technique to identify where the hang-ups lie and what steps can be taken to empower your team and educate the field all in an effort to improve your processes and continue to scale these processes as your organization grows.
Technology > Activities > People
When conducting a "mini-audit," we'll call it, we want to consider the weight of these above mentioned items and we want to consider them in the order in which they appear.
I start with Technology because it is static. That is, it serves a specific purpose. Your internal processes are only supported by the technology your organization leverages to drive the bottom line. In fact, only in rare cases should technology reveal itself as the source of a problem within your organization. If it is - 9 times out of 10 - it is because the technology deployed is failing to scale with the growth of the organization OR your technology procurement process is fundamentally flawed. - if you're smirking while you read this you should elevate your concern to the suits upstairs. Lightweight, best-in-class applications are released in droves every single day.
The second part of our mini-audit accounts for the connection between your Technology and People. The Activities.
I mean, in a typical day a good Business or Sales Development representative might log about 50 proactive outbound activities (phone calls or emails) - Unless the boss is in the office, than its 100 activities. It's these activities that Sales VPs and Marketing managers use, as metrics, to determine if the Sales and/or BizDev bullpen is conducting the business development 'ground-n-pound' they're being paid to do.
"Your audit will need to account for these Activity metrics and you will need to evaluate and analyze how they (activities) either are impacted by or adversely impact your Technology and People."
Finally, we must look at the People that drive the Technology through their daily activities. In the case mentioned above we acknowledged that there was a potential problem coming from the Field Sales sending quote requests to the Sales Support.
During our mini-audit we will need to account for the strongest representatives and do our best to identify the weakest representatives. From here we can overlay what we know about the technology being leveraged and the activities that drive the business process in order to build training collateral that benefit all members of the team.
Will vs. Skill!
I remember working as a Banker with a large commercial bank and being told by my manager that he could and would help me only if I was receptive to his input and made an effort at implementing his advice. He called this the will vs. skill initiative. Training managers know that we can teach skill, but there is little we can do if personnel lacks the will! In keeping up with this line of thought I want to suggest the following to organize what you have found during your mini-audit and how to propose the next steps to executive leadership.
A spreadsheet, venn-diagram or cartesian plane can help you visualize the degree of impact each element of the T.A.P audit has on your business practices. Use bullets to identify the activities and the technology. Ask some personnel for their input on these diagrams and use this to start a discussion on where they believe they might lie on a scale from "Needs Improvement" to "Process/Technology is A-Okay" From here you have the basis for a business case.
Again, in the example mentioned above, we see that the issue our Sales Support staff are dealing with might be corrected with something as simple as a formal playbook designed to articulate the process of the support role and then socialize it with Field Sales so they know how to better communicate with the Support.
With a simple mini-audit, we can propose practical steps for shoring up the weaknesses that may have been exposed. Remember, the objective here is to identify an opportunity for improvement, not alienate staff or impose impractical processes.
With a few simple steps we can transform the communication infrastructure and begin to influence how the organization, as a whole, perceives its people and where the use of technology truly impacts the day-to-day business.
*image courtesy of under30ceo.com