Fundamental of the Week #19: Fix Problems at the Source
Address issues by discovering the root cause rather than focusing on the symptoms or the consequences. Continually seek improvement by developing long-term solutions.
What is the most common response to a sudden crisis, breakdown or problem? Like seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror, it’s usually followed by some four-letter word. Dealing with multiple types of issues can be a common occurrence in organizations, and sometimes they arise suddenly and seriously. In addition to the problem being solved, there is often “face” to be saved and accountability or blame to be avoided.
When in the heat of it, we find a quick solution, get things back on track, feel relieved and then move on, meanwhile, trying to find someplace to direct the blame. We may have moved past the problem and possibly on to the next one; however, we’ve also unknowingly enhanced the probability of the same crisis, issue, or problem recurring in the future. The piece that is usually missing is finding the actual origin of the problem.
The problem is frequently just a symptom of the real issue. Solving the problem is not the same as solving the source or origin of the problem. The origin may be in the process, the system, or how one group hands off to another. It may be the dysfunction of a team, the lack of procedures, or how things get communicated. The consequence is distraction, wasted energy, and recurring issues that further distract and waste the energy of the enterprise.
Well-run organizations deal with problems and crisis quickly, get things moving again, and then in a spirit of partnership, return to the problem looking for the origin. They understand that the issue that arose is different from the origin of the issue. Every effort to solve the issue at its source is an investment in ending or minimizing recurrence, and at the same time, adding to organizational education and continuous improvement. You can pay once or you can pay over and over again. It’s all in how you go about solving the problem!
Founder and CEO,
Momentum Consulting, Inc