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Insights

Stop Pushing and Pulling—Part 2

Monday, July 2, 2018
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Last week, I showed you the difference between two case studies highlighting why talent development managers need to train their leaders in problem-solving and decision-making skills. This week, I am showing you the steps taken by my hypothetical compliance department manager, Jason Carter, to determine an effective course of action (COA) using problem-solving and decision-making skills. Rather than jumping into action, Carter uses tools like a systematic COA list and a decision quad chart to determine the most effective way to get the necessary reports and keep his team effective.

Step 1: Clearly Articulate What the Problem Is

This may sound like an over-simplification, but many managers jump into curing the symptoms of an underlying root problem rather than the problem itself. This may cause immediate symptom relief, but the same problem will continue to persist if the root problem is never addressed. This cannot be done unless the employee is intentional about clearly defining and articulating the problem. In Case Study 2 from last week, Carter wrote the following as a Problem Statement:

Problem: BSA, Reg D, and Reg E compliance reports are not being submitted to the board on or before the due date.

Notice that Carter did not write, “John is not submitting the BSA, Reg D, and Reg E reports to the board in a timely manner.” Carter is getting to the root problem. The symptom is that John is not submitting the compliance reports in a timely manner. However, the problem for the organization is that the bank’s board is not being informed of the bank’s compliance with BSA, Reg D, and Reg E—a much bigger issue for the organization. Once this problem is solved, the bank can continue to pursue other performance and behavior gaps within the organization these reports reveal, therefore reducing the bank’s compliance risk.

Step 2: Determine COAs (Courses of Action)

Making an impulsive decision rarely results in positive outcomes. Carter could simply place John on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), demand he complete the reports in a “timely manner,” and tell him he cannot leave today until the reports are complete. But is it the most effective COA?

Rather, Carter takes several minutes to consider all of his COAs and determines there are essentially three: He could follow the one listed above, he could gauge John’s enthusiasm for the task and seek his input on how to proceed, or he could find another compliance specialist who has expressed interest in completing the compliance reports and find another task that John is interested in doing.

Step 3: Systematize Your Decision

It doesn’t really matter how you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of your COAs, but what is important is that you go through the discipline of thinking through each COA. Carter used the following criteria as he considered each COA: task completion probability, time to complete task, employee engagement, employee development, and self (Carter’s) development. Carter simply scored each COA on a scale from 1-3 based on his criteria, with 1 being the weakest and 3 being the strongest. Here is how he scored each COA.

1. COA 1: Carter demands John complete the reports in a timely manner and does not leave today until they are complete.
a. Task Completion Probability—3
b. Time to Complete—3
c. Employee Engagement—1
d. Employee Development—1
e. Self (Carter’s) Development—1
f. Total Score: 9

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2. COA 2: Gauge John’s enthusiasm for the task and seek his input for how to proceed.
a. Task Completion Probability—2
b. Time to Complete—2
c. Employee Engagement—3
d. Employee Development—2
e. Self (Carter’s) Development—2
f. Total Score: 11

3. COA 3: Find another compliance specialist that has expressed interest in completing compliance reports and find another task that John is interested in doing.
a. Task Completion Probability—1
b. Time to Complete—1
c. Employee Engagement—2
d. Employee Development—3
e. Self (Carter’s) Development—3
f. Total Score: 10

Carter is shocked at the results of his assessment. The scoring suggests that COAs 2 and 3 are what is best for the organization as a whole.

Step 4: Recommend and Implement a Solution

Lastly, after the leader (or employee) has weighed all of their options, a recommendation needs to be made and implemented. In our scenario, Carter lays out his problem statement, COAs, COA rankings, and recommendations visually in a decision quad chart as seen below. Visualizing the process of problem solving and decision making makes it easier to communicate to your leaders and employees the logic you used in drawing your conclusions.

Problem: BSA, Reg D, and Reg E compliance reports are not being submitted to the board on or before the due date.

COA Ranking
1. COA 2: 11 Points

2. COA 3: 10 Points

3. COA 1: 9 Points

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COA 1: Demand that John complete the reports in a timely manner and does not leave today until they are complete.

COA 2: Gauge John’s enthusiasm for the task and seek his input on how to proceed.

COA 3: Find another compliance specialist that has expressed interest in completing the compliance reports and find another task that John is interested in doing.

Recommendation: Carter will implement a hybrid of COAs 2 and 3.

1. Carter will gauge John’s enthusiasm for the task of completing the compliance reports and collaborate with him.

2. Carter will seek John’s input for completing another task that he is interested in if he will train another compliance specialist that has expressed interest in the task of completing compliance reports.


Train Problem Solving and Decision Making

Go back to my blog from last week and look at Case Study 1. What would the decision quad chart look like for Mary? Take some time and role play in your mind how this employee may solve her own problem. First, articulate the problem. Second, determine two or three possible COAs. Third, weigh out the strengths and weaknesses of each. Then make and implement a recommendation that is best for the organization.

There are many reasons organizations may not decide to train the skills of problem solving and decision making. Perhaps they have regulatory or legal concerns that employees will make wrong decisions for which they will be liable. Perhaps they desire a stronger hold on what employees are able to do, and the best way to do that is to train them only on the organization’s desired behaviors. Regardless of the reason, if employees do not hone these skills, they will continue to seek out organization-developed training from which to “pull” or wait for it to be “pushed” out to them. Perhaps a decision quad chart should be performed to determine if training problem solving and decision making is good for your organization.

Scott Pitts will be presenting The Innovative Change Agent: Systematizing Innovation for Effective Change Managementat ATD's Talent Development Across Industries (TDI) in October at Yale University.

About the Author

Scott Pitts has spent nearly two decades in the learning and organization development professions, 16 of which have been in the financial services industry. Prior to his current role as a learning strategist for a major financial services firm, he created and led a learning department for the largest bank in Missouri not headquartered in a metro market. Currently, he partners with executives to recommend firm-wide learning and organization development solutions. Scott has performed and led nearly all learning functions as defined by ATD.

Scott is also an associate adjunct professor of training and development, as well as organization development and change, at the Walker School of Business at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Scott is also serving as a captain (promotable) in the United States Army Reserves for the 7th Psychological Operations Group in Mountain View, California. Scott is active in serving the Army and his local community by training local educators, clergy, and behavioral health professionals on suicide intervention. He also serves on the Business Education Advisory Board for Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Missouri, where he advises department leaders on curriculum enhancements to train future business leaders in Southeast Missouri.

Scott's idea of good self-care is sitting on his porch on his six acres of Missouri woods with cold beverage in hand, Darius Rucker playing, and his kids exploring the woods.

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