Kepner Tregoe provides an analysis framework to help you identify why things have happened.
It’s a step by step process which is intended to prevent you from cutting corners and jumping to conclusions, while helping you determine the root cause of a given issue.
I’ve taken their version and modified it a little to make it more efficient for how I’d use it. It’s based on doing the following:
- Identify the issue: Is your website losing traffic? Are your conversions down? You’ll have no solutions without first identifying the problem.
- Develop possible causes: While looking at the issue through the lenses of “What, Where, When, and Extent (How Much)”, you can start to capture ideas regarding why you might be seeing discrepancies between the results you’re getting and the results you were expecting. For example, if your website is losing traffic you could do something like:
IS COULD BE but ISN’T What MyWebsite.com traffic is down 15% My-2nd-Website.net traffic Where My Home page has seen decreases My Blog My About Us page has seen decreases My Contact Us page Decreases are from Google traffic Decreases in Bing or Yahoo When Traffic was fine first half of the month, but was down the last half The first half of the month Extent Even first half, down 15% second half The first half; Being down by < or > 15%
- Determine what is distinct about what ‘IS’ versus what ‘ISNT’. At this point you’re trying to compare What/Where/When/Extent that exists versus parallel situations where it doesn’t exist:
IS What is Distinct? What MyWebsite.com traffic is down 15% This didn’t happen to my other site. I didn’t make changes to it. Where My Home page has seen decreases I made edits to my homepage, not my blog My About Us page has seen decreases I made edits to my ‘About Us’ page, and not my ‘Contact Us’ page Decreases are from Google traffic Googlebot recrawled my site right after making the edits, Bingbot hasn’t. When Traffic was fine first half of the month, but was down the last half I made my change on the 15th of the month Extent Even first half, down 15% second half N/A
- Determine what changes have been made. What are the specific changes that have been made regarding the elements that cause the distinctions? In my example, what were the actual changes that were made to the pages that lost traffic?
Possible Cause Assumption What This didn’t happen to my other site. I didn’t make changes to it. I made text changes to the Home Page and About Us page Where I made edits to my homepage, not my blog I deleted all the text on the homepage I made edits to my ‘About Us’ page, and not my ‘Contact Us’ page I deleted all the text on the ‘About Us’ page Googlebot recrawled my site right after making the edits, Bingbot hasn’t. Googlebot recrawled my site and is incorporating my lack of text into their rankings. Bingbot hasn’t seen my changes yet. When I made my change on the 15th of the month I deleted the text on those pages on the 15th of the month Extent N/A N/A
- Determine probable causes and what you would need to do to prove the cause – Once you’ve gone through the exercise of determining discrepancies and changes, it’s time to put them to test to determine if you can prove their the cause. The way to do that is by preparing and conducting experiments to determine if you’re correct.
Cause Proof Probable Cause Text changes caused decrease in Google rankings which lead to less traffic from Google Removing text from pages of my other site, and seeing similar drops (although won’t be doing this 😉 Likely Site was down Traffic from all sources would be down the same Unlikely
The Kepner-Tregoe problem analysis framework doesn’t have to be done using all these tables every time. Just being aware of the What/Where/When/Extent framework can help you solve problems that come up in your life.
Like any framework, it’s important to adapt it to how you’re going to be using it.
Learn more about the Kepner-Tregoe problem analysis from the following sources:
You can also pick up a copy of the New Rational Manager by Charles H. Kepner (yes, that Kepner …) which details the process.