The Root Cause

Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems

No Readership without Leadership

Has the word “leadership” joined the ranks of “**FREE**” or “Sex” aimed at catching a reader’s attention? Stepping into the role of observer, I noticed how nearly every article on business is about leadership in one form or another, and new forms crop up every day.

Is it true, then, has leaders’ interest and curiosity been narrowed down to a single aspect of only one of the nine links (Firm Infrastructure) of prof. Michael Porter’s Value Chain Model? Have leaders become this selective in their reading, to the exclusion of anything else?

About every leadership article describes what leadership IS, and what their authors perceive as examples of “good” leadership. Doesn’t this sound like psychology 101—prescriptions of outcomes that are desirable for improving a business’ productivity and profitability? After having read so many of such prescriptions, I wonder what (good) leaders actually DO?

Let me explain what I mean.

A business is a system—a network of component parts and intricately interdependent connections. Hence my question, what do leaders do for the design, structure/organization, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management—Business Governance—of these systems? I’m asking because every job requires people to interact with the system. Did you know that these networks determine ninety-four percent of ALL outcomes; i.e. all intended and unintended results?

Component parts are becoming more numerous and more refined. Consequently, their connections have become more complex, and thus harder to comprehend. Needless to say, poor system design, structure/organization, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management generates undue friction and conflict for people to deal with, which cannot be solved with more pop-psychology.

What is needed is root cause analysis, which requires decision makers to understand how a business functions as a singular, unique, integrated and open system. This requires insight into the relationships between cause and effect, and means and ends. No amount of friction and conflict—the symptom of systemic problems—can be solved for as long as these relationships are being denied. And, that’s what leadership studies/coaching does! When was the last time your demanded a root cause analysis?

An Analogy

Business is a vehicle aimed at the realization of a specific purpose—hence the expression Form follows Function. And, a leader is that vehicle’s driver or pilot.

Let me use the birth of aviation as an analogy for business. The major challenge to aviation was control—steering the aeroplane as opposed to straight and level flight. The Wright brothers’ insight was that control was achieved by interaction between pilot and machine.

The Wrights understood that learning to fly was just as important as building the airplane itself. They recognized that an airplane is not a single device but a system of discrete mechanical and structural entities that all had to work in proper unison to achieve flight, with no one element more important than another. Realizing that the pilot is a part of this system, they devoted as much attention to learning to fly their aircraft as they did to designing and building them[i].”

Whereas the Wrights had to learn to fly, business leaders need to learn what I call Business Governance—a major part of my book The Root Cause.

It is not enough to know WHAT to do; you need to know WHY a contemplated decision or action will result in the intended outcome. Anything else is merely trial and error.

Moreover, accident investigation—research of cause and effect—shows that the amount of time that elapses between the occurrence of an incident and its cause can be minutes, hours, days, weeks, yes, even months or years. However, once you understand the principles by which a business system functions successfully—like the principles of flight as discovered by the Wright brothers—you can troubleshoot the sources of unintended friction and conflict, and thus create a solution for their successful reduction or elimination.


You need to know about Business Governance in addition to leadership. I can explain this to you but I cannot understand it for you. You must decide and commit yourself if you think Business Governance is important to your business and your own career and job satisfaction.

I’m here to help. Send an email to

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