Action Wheel Leadership

Identifying Systems Breakdowns

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The impact of misalignment: Recognizing the root fears and element of action causing misalignment in remodeling a house.- Dennis, ER doctor

Identifying Systems Breakdowns

After many moves both in the U.S. and overseas Dennis and his wife finally felt like they could settle down and raise their family.

Their search for the perfect home consumed months of time as they examined, explored, and walked through hundreds of homes.

They finally found the home of their dreams in suburbs of a large metropolitan area. Unfortunately, it was in need of a significant remodeling.

The investor and builder, supported by the realtor, put together a plan to turn the house into a “top Shelf” home. No expense would be held back and quality would earmark the project. Dennis and his wife said they were at the top end of their budget and needed a dollar amount before they moved forward. The builder said no problem and gave them a rough estimate of the cost. Dennis accepted the estimate and trusted the builder would do the right thing.  Dennis’s wife, however, was not so sure and prompted Dennis to “dig deeper” and unpack what all the vague terms in the contract really meant. He was busy and decided to press ahead.

Six months and two deadlines later Dennis and his wife were clearly frustrated. Every small change or correction they had requested in the home was met with a 15% surcharge. Materials, such as marble counter-tops in the kitchen and bathroom, were not included in the price. Lower quality materials in several rooms were used by the carpenters. Frustration boiled over. Dennis and his wife requested a meeting with the investor, builder and realtor. 

The perceived issue in this problem is power; who is responsible for the quality of work being done, and why the constant 15% surcharges on every little change? The real issue is mission. Each of the stakeholders has a different goal. The investor wants his money out of the project. The builder wants to make money, and Dennis and his wife want a “top shelf” home.

The reason goals are not being authentically put on the table is due to fear. The investor fears “holding the bag” with regards to the building loan. Rather than being forthright, and embracing that fear authentically, he is putting pressure on the builder to cut corners and get the house sold. The builder fearing loss of work and profit doesn’t tell Dennis and his wife the real cost of the remodel. Feeling pressure from the investor he cuts corners to save costs and still make money. Dennis and his wife fearing an out of control spiraling cost start reviewing the contract for “out clauses” to protect themselves from a loan they can’t repay. 

Until all parties are honest about their personal goals, and the costs involved in achieving those goals, the tensions will persist. Fears will continue to abound and trust will continually be broken.

Project Impact: Using the Action Wheel model learned in class Dennis was able to diagnose the fears and misalignments occurring in his home remodel. Furthermore, Dennis was able to clarify what was really happening, and why it was happening. Armed with that information Dennis was able to set up an intervention and address the shortcomings in this project.


Key Healthcare Impacts:

  • Addressed systems breakdowns
  • Risk mitigation with regards to physician focus and productivity

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