Guest Blog: Terry Stockham, Human Capital Advisor at OnForce
The Director of Sales at an FMCG organization contacts the company’s HR manager and requests sales training for his staff. Recent high turnover in the sales team has depleted the experienced staff and left him with the majority of the sales members with less than 3 months on the job. He also instructs the marketing team to create a new ad campaign to bolster slumping sales (sales have been declining over the past six months).
Three months later, the sales staff is fully trained and the new ad campaign is running, but sales are still declining. In addition, costs to conduct the sales training and support marketing efforts amounted to $3.5 million. To address this issue, the Director of Sales decides to talk with the company president and they decide to bring in a consultant.
Very quickly, the consultant discovers the real problem is in the production of the company’s products. The production process has not changed in over 20 years. High demand had taken its toll on the employees, processes, and equipment in the production department. The quantity and quality of the product line were the real cause of slumping sales! The production workforce was completely disengaged; they just didn’t care anymore. They had brought the problems forward to management many times, but their complaints were ignored. They were just told to work harder and faster.
It may seem strange that management did not recognize or address the production problems, but it is a true story! They treated the symptoms of the problem and ignored the true cause of the problem.
What can you do to avoid making the same mistake when addressing business problems? Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t react – respond. Do not panic and impulsively react to a symptom. Take the time needed to investigate the entire issue before taking action. Symptoms are very obvious and easy to see but causes are usually not as easy to identify.
- Talk to ALL the people involved in the situation. Create a team comprised of a cross-section of the organization to ensure that you capture all of the critical information and perspectives needed to identify the true cause of the problem. This team approach will be important when developing the solution.
- Gather data. Make sure that you have all of the data necessary to complete the investigation of the problem. Most serious business problems don’t happen overnight. You need “data history” to identify when, where, how, and why.
- Test the problem/solution. Make sure you have the true cause-and-effect identified before implementing a solution across the organization. Test it on a small scale before rolling it out. If you’re “fixing” the wrong cause, you may make things worse.
Bottom line: Do it right the first time or you will be doing it again and again and again…