Diagnoses by following your noses

Medical science today has almost limitless aids to help diagnose problems with the human physical frame.

 A year ago as my wifexraybones and I travelled homeward on a pleasant Sunday afternoon a vehicle travelling toward us crossed onto the wrong side of the road and slammed into us. We both suffered bad injuries and arriving at the Hospital Emergency Ward by ambulance we were both subjected to full body scans to assess the extent of those injuries.

I was very impressed with the calm efficiency of the Emergency Team and the slick procedures they applied to their diagnoses using a vast array of instruments, sensors and manual examination. Even in my battered state I found it quite humorous that, surrounded by all that technology, the team leader leaned over me and asked “So, where does it hurt?”

Diagnosing problems with organisations is reasonably similar. Regardless of the growing armoury of survey instruments, analytical reporting software and performance management technologies the most reliable method of identifying real human issues within workplaces is to engage directly with people and ask very simple questions. Some of the deepest secrets of complex organisational dysfunction can be revealed by starting with a simple overview of “where things hurt”. The important point is to make sure you ask the right people. In many cases that will not be senior management.

Getting under the surface to see the broken bits that are not apparent to the casual observer is the first key to any thorough diagnosis. Knowing where to look and what questions to ask is the second. Xray technology is one of the most widely used medical diagnostic techniques today and the emergence of its digital form now provides enormous clarity to images of bones and sinews deep under the flesh.

If only it were possible to see the deep seated causes of organisational disturbance as clearly. But even so, adroit questioning of key personnel and keen visual observance of behaviours and reactions provides a valuable understanding of what issues bear upon the ailment. Just as in medicine, an evaluation of the symptoms together with the progressive assembling of relevant pieces of information from various sources can fairly quickly lead to uncovering the cause and consequently the prescription of the remedy.

That’s why the concept of an overarching scan of an organisation to provide a snapshot of its general health is so valuable.

It allows a broad examination to reveal key areas of concern without spending time, effort and money examining issues of small consequence. Getting to the centre of problem areas fast and applying remedies before they blossom into bigger problems should be the central aim. That scan, like the Xray process, must penetrate past the surface to identify the bones of the problem.  Knowing what to look for and recognising abnormalities is a skill shared by radiologists and organisational consultants.

P.S. – Yes, that Xray is my foot after the accident with two titanium plates, 13 screws and three steel pins.

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