The Managerial Challenge: Using Early Warning Systems to Spot Signs of Trouble

The Managerial Skill of Spotting Trouble Early

All managers, whether they are in sales and marketing, operations, finance, or human resources, or for that matter project manager, have to have a set of skills and attributes that would stand them in good stead.

Apart from the technical skills and the soft skills such as communication and people skills, a key barometer of their effectiveness as managers would come from how they can Intuit and Sense trends and spot the early warning signs of trouble.

This is a skill that is much needed in this 24/7 world where the fast paced nature of the business landscape makes it very tough for managers to spot the Signals from the Noise and preempt and prevent negative outcomes.

Indeed, our present world is so immersed in speed and velocity that managers can be left breathless just trying to keep pace with the many challenges being encountered by them.

How HR Managers Spot Attrition and Bad Workplace Behavior

For instance, a HR (Human Resource) manager has to be constantly on the lookout for employees who are thinking of quitting either because they feel they are not being adequately rewarded or because they are getting a better deal elsewhere.

As HRM (Human Resource Management) theory clearly states, attrition is the single biggest risk for organizations as far as the HR side of things is concerned.

When employees leave midway, there are bound to be knocking on effects on their teams and peers wherein not only would the team and the organization by extension lose a valuable resource, it might also lead to an exodus of other employees following suit.

This is the reason that many organizations maintain a list of employees who are considered as probable quitters and hence, the HR manager and the Team Manager often lookout for the least possible damage when such employees quit.

In our experience, we have come across such practices that give the managers a Better Handle on things and which is vital for them to spot sig ns, formulate responses, and act on them.

Indeed, any HR manager would attest to not only this but also other practices such as maintaining a Database of employees whose workplace behavior tends to be discriminatory against either their female colleagues or towards their peers and subordinates or both.

The Quarterly Imperative and the Managerial Challenge

Likewise, managers in the Sales and Marketing function need to be On the Ball to spot signs of falling sales and decreasing margins.

Indeed, given the fact that corporates in recent years have been living for the Next Quarter and have all but abandoned the Longer Term Guidance reporting, it becomes that much more important for managers at all levels to constantly be on the lookout for advance Sales Figures, Quarterly performance indicators and other such data points.

Even Project Managers for that matter need to be on the lookout for client requests or some would say demands that can make or mar the chances of their projects.

This is the reason why many organizations insist on their project managers to have Early Warning Systems that can help them prepare for anticipated and unanticipated risks and then formulate appropriate responses, and act on them.

Technology Enabled Early Warning Systems

Talking about Early Warning Systems, in recent years, technology has made it easier for managers to spot the signs of trouble early, formulate best case responses, and act on them.

For instance, AI or Artificial Intelligence driven Software helps managers to extrapolate the present trends and data points and assess where the risks lie.

In addition, such Analytics tools also suggest best course of action and then advise the managers on the actual action plan to put in place the responses. Indeed, without hyperbole, one can say that the cutting edge technologies in recent years have been a boon for the managers as for the first time; they have the machines doing the thinking and which can or need not be supplemented by human decision making.

The reason for the qualifier is that despite the advanced state of technology, it is apparent that human inputs and what HR experts call the Gut Feel still have a role in determining how well we respond to the Early Warning Signs.

Indeed, the fact that experienced managers often have an Intuitive Sense of where they are headed and can also formulate what needs to done in case they are headed in the wrong direction and how to implement an action plan that they can actualize based on their years of experience.

Real Time Dashboards to Aid Managerial Decisions

More often than not, Early Warning Systems are like Weather Forecasts and hence, they too come with a Margin of Error.

However, their advantage lies in the fact that they can present a Real Time Dashboard for the Managers who can then monitor and preempt and prevent major disasters.

Indeed, coupled with the Real Time Dashboards, are Big Data driven tools that can take the historical data, compare them to the present statistics, and then extrapolate what can happen in the future.


Having said that, as mentioned earlier, there is nothing like experience and hence, it is imperative for managers to use the tools and complement and supplement the same through their Sixth Sense.

To conclude, all of us need to know what would happen in the future and likewise, it is a matter of extreme importance for managers of all stripes and levels and functions to have robust early warning systems in place for decisions.

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Human Resource Management