Ariel Quick

Managing Principal

  • Operating Model Design
  • Strategy
  • Communications
  • Life Sciences

02 Jul, 2021

The right way to diagnose a problem

Every company has at least one strategic document, and often many – however frequently they focus on solving the symptoms that they see rather than tackling the underlying issues.

Not everything can be fixed with a new TOM

It is tempting to believe that everything can be fixed with a new target operating model, but this is often not be the case. Organisational leaders may not understand what the actual issues are or may not want to accept or admit the underlying problem.

Sometimes the real issue can be tricky to diagnose

It isn’t uncommon for a company to spend millions on a new system only to discover that it doesn’t address those hidden issues that are negatively affecting the business – usually those more difficult to diagnose such as cultural or behavioural issues.

Taking the time to undertake due diligence first can prevent organisations from jumping to conclusions which risk wasting time and not addressing the real challenges.

A proper diagnosis is part of effective strategy development. Sometimes the most visible symptoms are misleading and uncovering the real problems creates legitimate solutions.

Transparent partnerships are key to the best relationships

A great consultant will go through a diagnostic process with a critical-thinking hat on, looking strategically at a business and determining what actually needs addressing. Having this objective third party removes assumptions and dependencies on how things have been done in the past.

An open and transparent relationship between consultancy and client during this process is key to establish the root of poor market performance, financial sustainability, or talent retention.

A lesson in good bedside manner

A good analogy is the way a doctor makes a diagnosis. If a doctor focuses on the issue that the patient is presenting, without exploring whether there are other less visible symptoms, then they will not come to the right diagnosis. Taking the time to talk to their patient and explore their health more fully is much more likely to guide them to the correct diagnosis – and an effective treatment plan.

The right way to diagnose

A good diagnostic process should look at the following:

  • Internal and external factors affecting the business and the industry as a whole
  • Organisational structure and culture
  • How a business is positioned within the market
  • Are the business objectives the right ones?
  • Are resources being utilised effectively?
  • Are the right technologies and systems being used?
  • Is communication and collaboration effective?

The diagnosis must be entered into with an open mind and with an appreciative enquiry approach viewing organisation’s strengths and their place in the opportunity-rich world around them. By viewing the entirety of an organisation, without predetermined expectations, the possibilities become clearly visible and a plan to fix underlying challenges can be established with confidence. 

To find out more about how Chaucer can help your organisation please contact

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