Do You Have To Go Back Often To Solve The Same Problem Again? - Learn How to Analyze Information
You can only solve a problem effectively if you understand its root cause, and you can only understand a problem’s root cause through research and analysis. This means gathering data and taking the time to compare and contrast evidence from multiple sources, even when there is pressure to jump to quick conclusions. Without a good analysis, you cannot understand an issue properly, and you are likely to end up solving the wrong problem or just addressing superficial symptoms.
Analyzing information means collecting and integrating multiple pieces of data; researching a problem to understand it fully is the first step in an effective problem-solving process. In our extensive research and testing of nearly 800 executives for my bestselling book THE LEADER HABIT, my team and I discovered the micro-behaviors that effective leaders do when they analyze information. They:
Review all available documents to find relevant information about the problem.
Integrate information from multiple sources to gain a novel insight, usually by comparing and contrasting different data points and sources and identifying the common theme that unites them.
Base decisions on multiple pieces of information and directly cite the different sources of evidence in support of the decision.
Once you understand that these behaviors are the key to analyzing information, you will need to internalize them for yourself, turning them into habits. Based on our finding that it takes 66 days to turn a behavior into a habit, we have created four simple exercises that will help you improve your ability to analyze information. They are:
Exercise #1: Research the issue.
You can get in the habit of reviewing available documents to find relevant information by double-checking decisions you make: After you make a decision, consult one additional source (search the Internet or ask someone) and write down in one sentence how the new information supports or contradicts your decision. For example, after deciding to give a customer discount, you may find out from your colleague that the same customer also received the same discount last week. If the new information contradicts your decision, go back and research the problem more.
Exercise #2: Find the common theme.
You can gain a novel insight by comparing and contrasting the information you collected during your research and finding the common theme that unites the different data points. Practice this exercise: After researching a problem, organize the information you have gathered in three to five bullet points and write down the common theme. For example, you could find out that a few employees missed a deadline, others completed the wrong assignments, and yet others got in a heated conflict; the common theme here is the lack of coordination on the team.
Exercise #3: Base decisions on multiple sources.
Practice this behavior by referencing the different sources you used to make your decision: After stating your opinion (in an email or a meeting), give two pieces of evidence to support your position by saying, “I am basing this on … and …” For example, if you think that a meeting should be rescheduled, you could be basing it on several key people telling you they were unable to attend and the meeting agenda not being ready on time.
At work, strong analytical leadership is required to implement new systems and processes, improve efficiency of operations, or combine and restructure business units. When designing new workflow processes, you must first conduct an analysis (gather and evaluate information) to identify the underlying problems, redundancies, and opportunities for improvement. Similarly, when you are merging operations into a new entity or refocusing operations on core business activities, you will also need to conduct an analysis of workflows, interdependencies, and overlaps before you can design the new organizational structure.
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