Having identified and established the need to address a problem, and a plan (however basic) to tackle it, the next step is to understand it. Gather data about what is happening – this is when we need to get down to details and we may find our initial understanding was way off. The problem may be deeper rooted than we first thought or, on the contrary, maybe it’s not so serious as we imagined. We need to be prepared to go back and revise our plan – we need a different team or more resources. We might even need to re-justify the project.
What we must not do at this stage, however, is to try and solve the problem – nor even try to establish causes. It’s tempting to find the root cause and identify a fix; we can come in ahead of time, under budget and earn a “gold star”. But we risk only having a partial understanding of what is happening and just create other problems. A temporary solution may be in order circumstances require or allow it but ensure it’s recognised as that – just temporary.
Gather data, such as:
- Who is doing what?
- What is the wider effect of the issue?
- Who is being adversely affected?
- Are there any positives from the current situation?
- Get more details on costs.
- Draw process maps.
If we don’t fully understand what is happening we won’t be able to find out why it’s wrong.