Finding the Cause of a Decline

When production is worsening, Active Management always addresses it. There are basic actions you can do to reverse the decline. The first step is to look – go in the area and look and see what’s going on. Talk to the personnel. One of the best questions I have found to determine what is causing a decline is to ask the personnel and executives of the area, “What is preventing you from doing your job?”. This and other questions to find out what is going on will uncover various situations. While there may be a hundred situations, you want the one that relates most directly to what you are trying to resolve. You don’t want to run off in a hundred different directions. You focus on exactly what you want to resolve.  

So let’s take Sales as an example. You have declining sales and you don’t know why. Your first action is: Inspection. Inspection means looking for yourself, not just listening. You’re looking for something that doesn’t make any sense – this is an important point. 

You go into the Sales area and ask staff what’s going on and the sales people say, “Well, the weather is bad, the economy is worsening and the Personnel Director has a bad attitude and we’re not getting as many leads anymore”. There’s nothing you can do about the weather or the economy and the Personnel Director has nothing to do with this situation, but “not as many leads” is something related and that you can look into and, it’s an oddity that you’re not getting as many leads as you have not changed your promotional program.

So you check into your Promotion Department and there’s nothing odd there except for the fact that the Director of Promotion says he’s sending just as many leads to Sales as he always does and he shows you the metrics and you look at his leads log and you can see that they are there. That’s odd. You ask, “Are you sending the leads to the Sales Department?”. “Oh Yes” you’re told. “Ok”, you say, “Give me the list of leads that you sent to the Sales Department last month”. 

So you go back to the Sales Department with the list of leads from the Promotion Department and you ask the Sales Manager, “Did you receive all these leads last month?”. The Sales Manager looks the list over and says “No”, some, but not all”. So you say, “Where do the sales leads arrive to when they come to the Sales Department?”. “They come to the Sales Administrator” says the Sales Manager. So the two of you go over to the Sales Administrator, who is new, and you ask – “Did you receive these leads from the Promotion Department?”. The Sales Administrator looks and says “Yes, it seems I did, I’m so sorry, I was a bit confused on how to process the ones from social media because…”

Ok, so the point of all this is that there is a reason Sales are down. You always address things that you can do something about. You never accept weak excuses and explanations. There’s an oddity of some sort that you’ll find – something that doesn’t make sense. You always dig in until you find the oddity and behind that, if you keep at it, you’ll find the actual reason. Many people stop when they find the oddity.  Don’t stop, keep digging in and when you do, you will find it’s something you can do something about. It will make sense. Then resolve that reason. That’s Active Management.  

– Ron Norton

Copyright © 2019 by Ronald C. Norton