At NextPoint IT, we like to think of business operations as a bike with 3 huge gears working together to push you forward: people, processes, and technology. (This is similar to Paul Romer’s classic article on endogenous growth where he believes people, ideas, and things drive the economy, not land, labor, and capital.) Each of these 3 gears has cogs and other, smaller gears, and if one of these is off, it can create a strain within the entire system.
Robert Mager and Peter Pipe’s book Analyzing Performance Problems focuses on the people gear in your business. People are always the most complex gear for any organization as a single person is an intricate web of other complex systems from the biological, the social, the neurological, the spiritual, and more. How do you hire the right people? How do you develop them? When do you know when they’re not the right fit? How do you identify their skills, abilities, and values? How do you set them up for success? How does their work interact with their personal life and vice versa?
Mager and Pipe’s book focuses on the development side of people, and every small business owner should read it to better understand how to analyze people problems in their business. Small business owners and executives quickly assume the root-cause of any performance problem is due to lack of training. A performance failure occurs, and they’ll put the employee through training. But when the training “fails” to fix the problem, they’ll fire the employee, and they’ll never identify the deeper systematic issues.
This knee jerk reaction to the most expensive part of your business stops you from identifying some of the deeper, true root-causes. Mager and Pipe lay out a quick and easy flow chart to help you analyze performance problems in your business, and this chart will quickly become one of the most valuable tools you can use to better understand people. If you take anything away from this post, this flow chart should be it.
Mager and Pipe will help you ask deeper systematic questions about your small business. Have you created processes that punish good performance? Do these processes reward bad habits and shortcuts? Do your people have the appropriate technology and tools to do their jobs? See how the technology and process gears can impact your people gear and while you’re fiddling with your people, the true problem may be with other gears.
We won’t cover all the details. But we can’t recommend this book enough for any small business owner out there trying to figure out how to improve employee performance. It’s a quick and easy read, only 160 pages. You’ll find yourself dusting this book off the shelf anytime you begin wondering why your employees aren’t doing what you want, or raging about it.
Credit: Tim Ludden