#1 Root Cause of All Operation Problems and How to Solve It

At Toyota, I drew the conclusion that the number one root cause of all operation problems always comes down to the same thing. ?

Someone didn’t know what they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it, or how they were supposed to do it. 

In my work now leading teams through process improvement, I observed the same trend.

This might seem obvious to some, but it’s truly the central reason to problems in process improvement today.

There’s a common misconception that different problems have different origins and that all problems are unique. This isn’t the case.

This lack of clarity creates a ripple effect on the operations and processes of an entire organization. It can cause:

  • Duplicate efforts: When roles and responsibilities are unclear, many employees may end up working on the same task or problem. This results in wasted time and effort. A report published by Asana reveals that employees waste more than 10% of their time or an average of 4 hours and 38 minutes duplicating efforts per week.
  • Lack of employee ownership and accountability: Expecting a deliverable and it not being completed is a typical scenario in companies where roles are not clearly defined. It can lead to finger-pointing, and conflicts may arise. 
  • Dissatisfied customers: Duplicate efforts are annoying internally, but their impact is more damaging to customers. With unclear responsibilities, multiple people end up doing the same task. For instance, two of your representatives may approach the same customer with the same message or purpose. This can be irritating to the customer and, at the same time, reveal to the customer that there is a lack of communication or disorganization within the company. 
  • Poor performance: A lack of clearly defined roles can hinder your team from performing at its best. According to research done by Effectory, employees who experience role clarity are 27% more effective and 53% more efficient than workers who have role ambiguity, in addition to overall work performance increasing by 25%. 
  • Poor employee engagement: With overlapping roles/responsibilities and unclear direction, chances are your people won’t be able to see their individual contributions to the overall success and growth of the organization. It can cause demotivation and make them feel disempowered.

How a Process-Based Culture Solves the Problem

In process work, we believe that people are not malicious. We believe that people are whole and complete and that they’re doing their best. People always have a reason why they’re not following a process, and usually, it’s because there’s a gap of understanding. 

With all the organizations I work with, 30% of process problems can be solved by clarification of roles, responsibilities and expectations. The question now is this: How can you make sure that everyone in your organization knows what they are supposed to be doing?

Other than providing proper training, clearly defining roles and responsibilities, and setting proper expectations, you must create a culture that always delivers the right process the right way at the right time. Culture greatly affects all your operations and processes, as well as guides how you and your people work. 

A sustainable solution to clarity issues in organizations is to create a process-based culture. This way, everything is standardized, which means you have the same way of doing things the right way at the right time. You also have an easy-to-understand and easy-to-access centralized repository of all your processes.

Also, a process-based culture aims for one-team alignment. Instead of making initiatives by department, you make small incremental changes as a company. This prevents organizational silos from happening, and over time these small improvements will turn into positive, bigger and more impactful change.

Behind all your processes and operations are your people. If you want to get your processes right, the people behind them must first have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. 

Let’s continue making business more human by making sure our people have what they need to succeed for themselves and their companies.

In love and respect,

Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


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