Five Questions to Diagnose Organizational Needs

As a consultant, a lot of my time is spent diagnosing matters related to organizational success. Sometimes as I listen, I discover themes about challenges that need to be addressed. At other times, I hear people provide insightful ideas about organizational opportunities. My goal is to help organizations clarify their needs and then help them act on them.

However, this process should not only be the domain of consultants. No matter who you are, you must learn to diagnose organizational gaps and opportunities. I have discovered five useful questions which can help you do this. Michael Watkins suggests that leaders should use them when they begin working at a new organization. However, I think they are questions which can be helpful to ask even if you are not new. Here they are;

  1. What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing (or will face in the near future)?
  2. Why is the organization facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  3. What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
  4. What would need to happen for the organization to exploit the potential of these opportunities?
  5. If you were me, what would you focus attention on?

In one of my recent blogs, Mr. Blanchard commented, “Many leaders are scratching their heads in the eventual decline phase of organizational life without a plan to launch a new service or product” (see Assessing Organizational Opportunities). This astute assessment summarizes the demise of many organizations! The five questions above are simply one way to overcome this problem.

But what about you? What questions have you found helpful in diagnosing the needs of your organization?


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

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Are you Do–>Think or Think–>Do?

The ability to understand the unique ways people think, act and learn allows us to be more effective in our work and personal lives. As I consult, one of my favorite filters to help me do this is determining whether people demonstrate a preference for thoughtfulness or for action. I have dubbed this the ‘do–>think or think –>do’ test.
This concept was developed while listening to a presentation by Robert Moran (Brunswick Group or @robertpmoran). As he discussed an organizations strategy, he used think/do or do/think to define the two strategic options of the company. I have borrowed and extended this principle as it also applies to human and organizational behavior.
Think of some of the people that you interact with regularly (including yourself!) and ask yourself which one of these two categories fits best:
1. Do–>Think: These people are action oriented and like to get their hands dirty. They get to it and are comfortable working with an imperfect plan. Once things are underway or completed, they assess what they have learned and how to improve it.
Example: As I taught a board game game to a group of people this weekend, Ryan interrupted me two minutes into the rules and asked, “can we just begin playing and learn it as we go?” He demonstrated a strong do–>think tendency.
2. Think –>Do: These people prefer to begin by thoughtfully considering what needs to be done. They consider options, line up their priorities and then systematically work their way through them. They are not afraid of action, they just want to spend time on the best ones.
Example: I am teaching some on-line Master’s level courses this fall. The think–>do students in my class are sending me emails in the first week asking for clarification on paper requirements (and also sending in a draft for review prior to submitting the final paper).
We fluctuate between both of these modes of operation each day. Certain circumstances lend themselves more naturally to each of these styles. For example, contrast the difference between the development of a five-year strategic plan versus assembling your child’s new toy. Or perhaps at the height of your busy work season you may not have time to think/do. Sometimes circumstances will dictate our preferred method.
However, I believe that each of us also has an innate bias. I need to tackle large problems with time to think and ponder. In contrast, some industries move so quickly that they often need to be more do/think (think of technology and apps). This filter has helped me understand that I need to shift my preferred style at times in order to work more effectively with the do–>think people or to get work done on a tight timeline.
Here are some ways to apply this principle:
  • Assess the members of your team and identify their tendency.
  • Discuss this model with them and ask them to identify their own tendency? Is it the same as your observation?
  • Identify the person you often conflict with at work. Could your conflict stem from a different do–>think or think–>do orientation?
  • Review whether you identify the style which is different than your own as ‘wrong’ or ‘different’?
  • Determine how having different styles will help you and your team.

There is no single filter that helps you understand a person perfectly. However, the do–>think or think–>do is one tool which is easy to use and often provides you with quick insights about how to best work with a person.


 

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