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Is It a Process Issue or a Person Issue?

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Every company experiences a bump or two along the road. What happens when this becomes a constant rather than a rarity?

As leaders, we all know that hiccups (minor, major, and anything in between) are bound to occur and disrupt our organizations. And, while it’s true that mistakes are inevitable, if they become the norm instead of the exception, it’s best to take the time to consider the underlying cause.

Mistakes happen for many reasons, and they can often be linked to poorly executed policies and procedures. However, employee error can just as easily be to blame. Before you drastically alter your processes, consider whether the situation is a process issue or a personal issue. Here are some questions to consider as you determine the real source of the problem.


© Flickr user 國軍退除役官兵輔導委員會.

“Have I Tried Following the Process Myself?”

As your business evolves, your processes may need to follow suit. While a process may seem airtight, it’s entirely possible that it’s no longer useful for day-to-day application. If you have a process that is consistently yielding poor results, it’s time to reevaluate how things are being done. Try putting yourself in your employees’ shoes and follow the process yourself. This is a surefire way to determine if the process itself is flawed or if the problem stems from your employee.

“Are There Recurring Factors?”

The occasional misstep aside, when mistakes start happening too frequently, it’s likely the incidents have a common cause. Whatever the mistakes may be, identifying any recurring factors can help you locate the root of the problem. For example, you may find that your team is consistently failing to return phone calls within your organization’s preferred timeframe.

After taking a closer look at the situation, you may find that this is only happening during understaffed days. In this case, simply tweaking your process for under-staffed periods may easily solve the issue. The above example is relatively straightforward, but keep in mind that this search can also lead you to unexpected places. You’ll need to be in detective mode and look beyond the surface.

“Have I Listened to Feedback?”

If a particular policy or process just isn’t working, someone on your team is (hopefully) bound to have expressed concern. When it seems that your organization is suddenly plagued with mistakes, ask yourself if your employees have pointed out flaws in the current process. It’s very possible that you haven’t been listening to your employees’ feedback closely enough.

In this case, you can easily take steps to rework the problematic process. However, if you see that a change in the process won’t solve the problem, you’re likely dealing with personnel issues. Try a sit-down meeting with your team to stress the importance of why the process is in place. You’ll want to be specific, in this case simply saying “because I said so,” won’t suffice.

We’ve all heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. After all, it’s much easier to prevent problems by simply taking the appropriate action as needed, rather than going into full-on crisis management mode. Mistakes within your organization are inevitable, but knowing how to differentiate between people-related or process-related issues is the key to getting things back on track.

This is an issue that Robby Slaughter of AccelaWork knows a thing or two about. He talked about the four kinds of mistakes that can happen at companies. He supports making mistakes if you can learn from them. Mistakes are essential to growth and inescapable in life. Pay attention to the types of errors you experience. Did you intend to do something bold, or was it by accident? And is this something where you can learn a little, or a lot?

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Emily Tisdale
Emily D. Tisdale is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Recourse Resource Consulting, a healthcare experience consulting firm based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Emily and her team supports healthcare organizations in achieving sustainable results focused on patient experience, employee engagement, and marketing.
Emily Tisdale


Biz Owner (Radius10, LLC + Recourse Resource) • Wife + Mom | Mixing life + work on this previously work-only account because, well, I want to👩🏻‍💻
At-home date night watching @KevinHart4real’s Zero F**cks Given and I. Am. Dying. 🤣 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 - 8 months ago
Emily Tisdale
Emily Tisdale

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