The Root Cause

Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems

Lessons from a World War II Bomber Pilot

        Not all business advice has to come from business books, magazines, lectures, or seminars. After all, so much wisdom can be imparted from OUTSIDE the confines, boxes or categories labelled “Business”, “Management” or “Leadership.” There is one caveat though and that is you will not find it neatly packaged in single bite-size portions, or presented in any familiar overly-used sound bites.

           No, you’ll have to dig deeper; look for underlying thoughts and principles that explain and predict consequences of one’s assumptions, assertions, beliefs, decisions, and subsequent actions that preceded these (un)intended and (un)wanted outcomes or effects.

           Then, envision their significance and applicability outside the context within which you found them; infer their meaning for your own situation, and draw analogues with other situations and conditions with which you are familiar. Imagine the excitement when experiencing the insight and understanding you gain from such aha-moments . . .

           Clearly, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, which explains why too many “leaders” rely so heavily on prescriptions for WHAT to do WHEN, which are readily available in convenient and user-friendly formats such as How-To best practices and n-step “secrets” in the hope of success in one’s job.

Here’s an Example of Going Outside . . .

           Currently I am reading CHESHIRE: The Biography of Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM by Richard Morris. Cheshire was a highly decorated Royal Air Force pilot during the Second World War, who served within Bomber Command as a group captain and wing commander of Number 617 Squadron, commonly known as the “Dambusters”.

           The following section grabbed my attention:

“Long had taught that “Bombing is technical, a matter of knowledge and experience, not setting your jaw and rushing in. And when you have the knowledge and the experience, the crux of the issue is crew cooperation.”

           Officer Frank long was tasked with Cheshire’s familiarization with the twin-engined (Armstrong Whitworth Whitley) bomber he was going to fly. Long quizzed him relentlessly,

“[] testing his knowledge of the aeroplane’s technicalities: crew drill, operational procedures, use of wireless [radios], map-reading at night. ‘I do not think there can have been a single piece of equipment or a single aspect of flying on which he failed to questioned me’.

           My take-away is that crew cooperation becomes important only after thorough familiarization with the aircraft. After all, how can pilots inform their crew members how to contribute to a joint effort, without their prior understanding of the aircraft’s technicalities?

           For me, aircraft technicalities and crew cooperation are analogues for Business Governance™ and leadership. Every business is a vehicle, which is―just like a Cheshire’s Whitley bomber―technical in nature.

           Successful performance depends on a vehicle’s business governance; its design, structure or organization, implementation or operation, maintenance, and management. Just like crew cooperation, leadership is a matter of improving inter-personal relationships.

           Consequently, one’s leadership approach will have to be defined according to a business’ actual technical requirements―how the business IS designed, structured or organized, implemented or operated, maintained, and managed, not how you wish it WAS designed, structured or organized, etc.

           In conclusion, no new, better, more advanced or enlightened leadership approach―crew cooperation―is capable of changing the technicalities of business.

Solving Enterprise-Wide Problems

           Misalignment between leadership style and business governance is a frequent source of friction and conflict, which reduces effectiveness, lowers efficiency, raises cost, and undermines profitability, and therefore long-term sustainability.

           Instead of solving what you DON’T want―erosion of profit margins due to, for example, ineffectiveness, inefficiencies, dissatisfied buyers/users, disengaged employees―define and pursue what you DO want. This requires changes to a business system’s governance.

           Failing to solve stubborn enterprise-wide problems is the executive’s Achilles Heel. You may WANT—prefer, or crave—to update your leadership skills, but what the business NEEDS—its experience of being deprived of something essential—is for you to gain understanding of system complexity, or its business governance.

In All Honesty . . .

           If questioned, can you think of a single piece of equipment, a business process or any other aspect of being-in-business that would cause you yourself to fail the test?

           If so, rest assured, no one comprehends everything about complexity; that’s the nature of the beast. But, will you choose to learn about business governance?

I wrote my book The Root Cause: Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems just for you!

Take a peek inside The Root Cause by clicking this link

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