Awareness – Step 1 to Getting on Top of Issues

Step 1 – Awareness

This post concentrates on the first of these steps – gaining and improving awareness – recognising you are swamped, collecting information, identifying scale, understanding complexity, counting success and failure and creating a winning vision.

This is the first of six posts that outline in more detail our guide to getting on top of your issues, born out of our experience, frustration and success in managing issues in complex environments.

Recognising you are swamped

Recognising that you are being swamped is the key first step. For example – If you cannot achieve anything you had planned because of responding to the phone and email, day after day – you are being swamped with issues.

Getting ahead will require more than solving one problem after the next – you will need a system with processes to help you get ahead of the curve and get control.  The purpose of this system is to help you put structure and organisation into your response to issues and thereby become more effective and efficient.

Collecting information not data

An urgent phone call saying “Machine A is broken – get it fixed ASAP!” may not be an untypical type of request but it contains little information of practical use – either anything to help immediate diagnosis nor in understanding any bigger picture patterns – it is simply data.

Recognising data and turning it into useful information such as “Machine A’s conveyor chain broke at the start of the shift when turned on – here is a photo” will help not only immediate response but also in recognising and mitigating patterns in the issues you face. Turn data into information by adding context – a key ingredient in getting ahead of the curve.

Identify scale

Being swamped can seem like there is a never ending stream of issues but without an idea of scale any attempt to get ahead is likely to struggle. Resources and time can be easily diverted away by individual priorities without an overview to balance their allocation. If 80% of issues originate in shop A but shop B and C monopolise resources due to location and visibility, then shop A will continue to drag down overall performance metrics.  Identifying the scale of the issues you face and their origin is an important step to gaining situational awareness.

Understanding complexity

Issues are never straightforward – an issue might have a simple fix but may have complex, re-occurring origins and without this insight the issue will continue time and again. Long term progress is always made by addressing underlying causes rather than just addressing symptoms but without appreciating complexity this can be out of reach.

Counting success and failure

It is important to keep score, not just the data required within any weekly/monthly reports but also in key areas such as response time, re-occurrence rates and by issue category/originator. Counting success is vital to moral within a team, knowing you are making long term progress even through under short term stress.  Counting success and failure will put external pressures and stress into context and kick start the learning process.

What does winning look like?

Having a vision of what good looks like is always important. You may be lucky and have access to benchmark data from within or even external sources – but setting your own internal vision is what is key. Relying on external advice will ultimately limit how far you can improve, motivation is always stronger if you and your team are pushing towards your own goals. Setting targets you can monitor, in bite-size steps means you will have your own path to getting ahead of the curve.

Step 2 in this guide will cover how to Categorise your issues, looking into accountability, root causes, structured failure, triage and how to use locations and assets.

Further Reading

We have prepared a simple primer from this article with a series of questions to aid your understanding:

One Issue 6 steps – Step 1 Awareness Questionaire

An overview of the 6 steps has previously been published here .

The steps are 1 Awareness, 2 Categorise, 3 Organise, 4 Implement, 5 Feedback and 6 Monitor.

You may also find these external links useful in exploring these topics further:

https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/tutors/counselling/informationpages/selfawareness/

http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/lwit/assets/downloads/situational-awareness.pdf

http://www.diffen.com/difference/Data_vs_Information

http://enterprisearchitects.com/data-is-not-information/

http://www.digitaltonto.com/2012/understanding-complexity-and-what-to-do-about-it/

http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/how-to-manage-success.htm