P&C planning mistake no. 2 – We diagnose the symptoms not the cause

Last week we started the conversation about why our people and culture initiatives don’t give us; 

  • Maximum impact and
  • High performance attendance

That was mistake no. 1 – giving people what they want. You can read about it here if you missed it. Let’s not make another classic mistake. Diagnosing the symptom, not the cause.

Imagine if you’ve been having ongoing headaches and it is now creating pain down the back of your legs. And it’s been getting consistently worse in the last 3 days. It feels like something is in your brain. You go to the doctor and tell her so. She says you need an MRI. Now you go down the road of costly and time-consuming testing.

What if she asked you, up front, about how you are eating, drinking, exercising? And found out you have been on a high coffee and wine diet. You have been pushing it at yoga on top of a niggle in your back. What would you say the issue is now?

We diagnose our issues too fast and don’t get to the foundation of why things are happening. 

Recently we worked with a State Government Department a year after COVID hit us. Their people were exhausted. They were having meeting upon meeting and regularly missing deadlines. They were reacting in unhealthy ways in meetings and with each other.  The Chief Executive told their HR team they needed a ‘well-being program’. 

What we knew is that, running a well-being program was not going to fix burnout. If people were exhausted because they didn’t know how to take care of themselves, then sure it might be helpful. My experience is that the issue stems from too much work, unclear priorities and avoiding issues until they become bush fires.

For example, teaching everyone to give feedback will not eliminate poor performance. Building a culture of accountability is likely to be the core issue. It starts at the top.

We often design and run programs based on the wrong assessment. Not out of poor intention. Just poor diagnosis. Ironically because we are tired and burned out.

The symptoms help us understand the issue but addressing them is not likely to fix the problem. We need to get to the root cause to do that.

If you lead teams, or businesses, and want to know how to embed a feedback culture, then you should come to my free online event March 27th. Register here.