Decision Drivers: Defining Your True North


Brandy Taylor, IpX VP of Services

Employees are often unintentionally incentivized to produce solutions that only address the symptoms of a problem, never to discover the root cause of the problem they are facing. Many complex improvement initiatives fail because they begin without a clear understanding of what problem they are intended to solve. Difficulties in clear problem definition can lead to multiple, but incompatible, solutions.

It is not typical for employees to be rewarded for spending time to understand the problem at hand. Rewards come to those who produce quick solutions and accomplishments. Because valued employees are skilled problem-solvers doesn’t mean they necessarily have skills in problem definition. In a college environment, students become skilled in problem-solving, however, the problem statements are provided for them to solve.

Human nature drives us to brainstorm solutions in search of a problem. When we define a problem, we inherently call to mind a solution. Taking the time and resources to define the problem is the most important thing to efficiently and effectively drive to the right solution.

Clear problem statements should drive all decisions throughout complex improvement projects.
  • WHAT problem are you trying to solve?
  • WHY is this problem important?
  • WHO owns the problem?
Poor problem statement definition is a particular issue for organizations whose employees manage many responsibilities at once. Opportunities for distraction is common as everyone aims to get as much done in as little time as possible; conflicting priorities occur daily. Based on IpX experience, a typical organization’s resources are spending ~40% of their time on intervention activities. This means almost half of valuable resources are working reactively, instead of proactively.

To mitigate misalignment and poor decision making, you must take the time to align your initiative with what IpX sees as the company’s True North, or ideal state. That way, all employees, from the executive-management level down can use the right data driven decisions throughout the ebbs and flows of each initiative.

IpX helps partners to define their True North for process improvement initiatives so key stakeholders and team members stay the course throughout the journey. Complex problems require clear problem statements and data driven decisions to ensure success criteria is met. When questions or multiple options present themselves in your initiative, remember to consider your True North. Your well-defined problem statement should help you make the right decisions.

A company's ability to lay out specific goals and hold employees accountable to them is one of the top factors in successful financial outcomes.
What problems are you trying to solve? Let’s talk.

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